Chris Wallace Disgraced Himself by Trying to Silence Kirsten Gillibrand, Yet She Persisted
Chris Wallace, Fox News’ most respected journalist, disgraced himself by trying to silence New York Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand during a town hall event, but she persisted with her 100 percent factual criticism of Fox News.
It may sound like faint praise to call Wallace Fox News’ most respected journalist, considering the remaining available pool consists of Shep Smith and John Roberts, (Fox News points to the likes of Bret Baier and Martha McCallum as well) but Wallace has also distinguished himself among his non-Fox colleagues. Along with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Wallace outclasses the field of Sunday show hosts by asking tough questions of most every guest, hitting them with incisive and persistent followups, and most importantly, preparing himself for many of those interviews with a deep knowledge of the facts.
Wallace has his problems, too, but he seems to have demonstrated enough care about journalism to be capable of caring when he disgraces it, as he did during Sunday night’s town hall with Senator Gillibrand.
In an exchange that proved the DNC’s point about allowing Fox News to moderate debates, Wallace tossed to a question from the audience. A woman named Susan, who identified herself as a retired pediatric nurse who worked with “preemies,” asked a question about so-called “late-term abortions,” (a political term with no medical definition) heavily implying that premature babies have some connection to the issue. It was an unsubtle bit of framing that became more important later.
“What is your position on late-term abortion or last trimester abortions?” Susan asked.
Gillibrand began by stating that “it should be a woman’s decision to make these most intimate life and death decisions for themselves,” and added that “what we have created, unfortunately, is a false choice, and a false narrative.”
“And Chris, I want to talk about the role that Fox News plays in this, because it’s a problem,” Gillibrand said, with no objection from Wallace. “I can tell you before President Trump gave his date of the union, Fox News talked about infanticide, and infanticide doesn’t exist.”
It was at this point that Wallace decided to interrupt, saying “Senator, senator, I just want to say we’ve brought you here for an hour, we have given you, we are treating you very fairly, I understand that maybe to make your credentials with the Democrats who are not appearing on Fox News, you are going to attack us.”
“I’m not sure it’s frankly very polite when we invited you to be here,” he said, to which Gillibrand replied “Okay, I will do it in a polite way.”
“I just think, why don’t we, instead of talking about Fox News, why don’t you answer Susan’s question?” Wallace instructed.
But Gillibrand was unbowed, and went on to talk about Fox News anyway.
“What happens on Fox News is relevant because they talked about infanticide for 6.5 hours,” Gillibrand said. “Six-point-five hours, right before President Trump’s State of the Union, mentioned it 35 times. That is not the debate of what access to reproductive care is in this country. It doesn’t happen, it’s illegal, it’s not a fact.”
That Wallace would attempt to silence Gillibrand at all was outrageous. His job as a moderator is to allow the candidate to answer, and follow up if necessary, a skill he has regularly demonstrated. As a journalist, Wallace could have allowed her to finish, then attempt to refute or clarify with additional questions, or offer his own factual context.
But those options were not open to him, because what Wallace called an “attack” was actually a set of indisputable facts. According to the Internet Archive, “infanticide” was mentioned on Fox News 52 times between Feb. 1 and Feb. 5, when Trump told the dangerous lie that a Democratic governor wanted to allow parents and doctors to “execute a baby” after it’s born.
These were not restricted to Fox “opinion” shows, as if that would make it any better. As Mediaite editor Colby Hall noted, the lie went unchallenged on Fox News “hard news” shows like America’s Newsroom. In fact, just days before Trump elevated the lie, it went unchallenged on a Fox News “hard news” program called Fox News Sunday, hosted by a guy named Chris Wallace.
Panelist Jonah Goldberg falsely accused Virginia Governor Ralph Northam of “rhetorically endorsing infanticide,” and Wallace did not correct him.
Just two weeks ago, Wallace referenced Trump’s lie during an interview with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and called it an “overstatement.”
Wallace is not alone among journalists who have done an awful job calling out this lie, but as Gillibrand pointed out, he works for the only news network that has relentlessly and viciously promoted it. These are facts, a currency with which Wallace is normally quite comfortable.
Gillibrand is to be commended for her refusal to be silenced, but other Democrats considering appearing on Fox News should take note. In a further demonstration of the network’s bad faith and dishonesty (which I hope Chris Wallace asks someone about after he reads this), Fox News omitted Gillibrand’s persistence from it’s own story on the exchange.
In an article entitled “‘We’ve invited you’: Chris Wallace spars with Gillibrand over abortion controversy”, the reporter skipped right from Wallace’s instruction to answer Susan’s question to Wallace’s next question about litmus tests, giving anyone who relied on the story alone the impression that she had capitulated to his admonition:
“Instead of talking about Fox News why don’t you answer Susan’s question,” Wallace said redirecting the senator to her stance on late-term abortions.
Gillibrand, a fervent supporter of abortion rights, has previously vowed to only nominate federal court judges who support Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion across the nation. She repeated that position during Sunday night’s event at the University of Dubuque.
“Does that mean that you’re okay with other presidents having their own litmus tests?” Wallace asked her.
Gillibrand had little to lose by appearing at this event, and stands to gain politically from this stand. But any candidate with substantial support would risk alienating those supporters who agree with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s principled stand against “an outlet that profits from racism and hate.”
For those with little enough support to risk an appearance on Fox News, the lesson here is to be prepared to kick Fox News in the teeth hard, and with facts. Ask Chris Wallace if he agrees with the “infanticide” lie, or why he calls undocumented immigrants “illegals,” or why, if he cannot defend the racist remarks of his colleagues, does he continue to work there?
Watch the exchange above, via Fox News.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.