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Chris Wallace leaves Fox News for CNN streaming service

Fox News star Chris Wallace announced on Sunday he was leaving for CNN, stripping the Rupert Murdoch-owned network of its most decorated reporter as Tory hosts like Tucker Carlson increasingly set the agenda. chain.

The network edged out CNN and MSNBC in the rankings with an expanded list of right-wing comments denouncing President Biden and defending former President Donald J. Trump. But some members of his newsroom have been pissed off by programming that has given weight to vaccine skeptics or amplified conspiracy theories over the Jan.6 riot on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Wallace, 74, had expressed concern to Fox News management over a recent documentary by Mr. Carlson, “Patriot Purge,” which included the false claim that the riot was an operation. ” under false flag “created to demonize the political right. The anchor objections, first reported by NPR, were confirmed on Sunday by two people who requested anonymity to share private discussions.

Mr Wallace’s contract as host of “Fox News Sunday” ended at the end of December, and three people familiar with his thinking said he weighed several factors in his choice to leave, including the desire to leave. expanding its portfolio beyond politics to include business, sports and entertainment. He will host an interview show starting next year on CNN +, a new digital streaming platform.

Fox News has often singled out Mr. Wallace and his difficult talks with Democrats and Republicans to refute critics who accused the channel of abandoning mainstream reporting. Mr Wallace was the first Fox News presenter to host a presidential debate (in 2016, then again in 2020) and his first reporter to be nominated for an Emmy Award, for a widely acclaimed grill in 2018 from Russian President Vladimir V . Putin.

He follows other reporters who have left Fox News, including Shepard Smith and Kristin Fisher. In May, liberal Juan Williams was fired from his spot on the network’s afternoon talk show, “The Five,” and Democratic analyst Donna Brazile left Fox News for ABC. Two Tory pundits, Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, resigned last month to protest Mr Carlson’s special. (Fox News has said it has no plans to renew the couple’s contracts.)

“For many serious journalists from all walks of life, we have turned to Chris as a guide on how to do real news and real reporting in sometimes confusing times over the past few years,” Mr. Hayes said in a commentary. interview.

Mr. Wallace’s exit caught the news industry off guard on Sunday. “I am ready for a new adventure” he told viewers at the end of his regular show.

He also praised Fox News, his home since 2003. “Fox’s bosses promised me that they would never interfere with a guest I booked or a question I asked, and they kept that promise, ”Wallace said. “I have been free to report to the best of my ability, to cover stories that I think are important, to hold the leaders of our country to account. “

Fox News said in a statement: “We are extremely proud of our journalism and the stellar team of which Chris Wallace was a part for 18 years. The legacy of ‘Fox News Sunday’ will continue with our star reporters, many of whom are will change positions until a permanent host is appointed.

Among the expected replacements are Bret Baier, who hosts the network’s 6pm newscast, as well as Neil Cavuto, John Roberts and Dana Perino. While Mr. Wallace’s exit leaves a void in Fox News reporting, the network still has respected journalists like congressional reporter Chad Pergram and Jerusalem-based correspondent Trey Yingst.

The network’s biggest star is Mr. Carlson, who is the highest rated host not only on Fox News but in all cable news, and who enjoys strong support from management. Fox News has not commented on the controversy surrounding “Patriot Purge,” which is one of several documentaries Mr. Carlson has in the works.

But internal tensions over Mr. Carlson’s special have been revealed to the public. In October, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera told the New York Times that the show seemed “inflammatory, scandalous and unsubstantiated”, adding, “I wonder how much is done to provoke rather than enlighten” .

Fox News’ Trumpward turn was a major success for the network, in terms of ad revenue and Nielsen ratings. As of November, Fox News shows accounted for 71 of the 100 top-rated TV shows in all of cable TV.

It also comes as cable news programmers have sought to reflect the country’s more partisan climate. MSNBC, for example, replaced Chris Matthews, its moderate 7pm anchor, with leftist commentator Joy Reid, who also co-hosted her election night coverage.

John Malone, a major shareholder of Discovery Inc., which may soon control CNN, said last month that he wanted CNN “actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing, ”an apparent criticism of the channel’s addiction to comments. (Mr Malone also praised Fox News’ Mr Baier for trying to “separate news from opinion.”)

Fox News briefly lost viewers following Mr. Trump’s defeat last November. Many fans of the network have hesitated at the willingness of its anchors to declare Mr. Biden president-elect; some have defected from the right-wing Newsmax network, which has seen a surge in viewers.

Fox executives replaced a 7 p.m. newspaper with a conservative commentary and shifted an 11 p.m. newspaper by an hour to make way for a talk show hosted by pro-Trump expert Greg Gutfeld, who now dominates his time slot.

The network also fired veteran political writer Chris Stirewalt about two months after helping to make an early election night projection that Mr. Trump would lose Arizona, infuriating the former president’s allies.

Mr. Wallace’s willingness to criticize Mr. Trump on the air has often been praised by the Liberals, but he has also confused Fox News critics by refusing to denounce his opinionated colleagues.

“Listen, I work at Fox. Do I agree with some of the things I hear? Absolutely not, ”Wallace told The Times last year. But he said he didn’t feel any pressure to report the news with a particular slant, adding: “I was never guessed on a guest I booked, a question I asked. “

He was recruited for “Fox News Sunday” by Roger Ailes, the network’s co-founder, who believed that a solid news operation was helping legitimize a channel whose conservative opinion broadcasts were a television novelty at the time of its creation in 1996.

A former White House correspondent for NBC News, Mr. Wallace had a knack for irritating presidents. Bill Clinton accused him of having a “smirk on your face, “Barack Obama avoided his interview attempts for eight years, and Mr. Trump frequently berated him on Twitter, comparing him unfavorably to his father, “60 Minutes” host Mike Wallace.

As moderator of the final debate in the 2016 election, Mr. Wallace received high marks for keeping candidates in line. In 2020, that was a different story: Mr. Trump ignored his questions and accused him of bias. “A terrible missed opportunity,” conceded Mr. Wallace afterwards.

At CNN +, Mr. Wallace will help cover election nights and nomination conventions. He’s also likely to engage in other interests: a product of the East Coast establishment, he’s friends with some celebrities, including actor George Clooney, with whom he vacationed in Italy.

This is not the first time that Mr. Wallace has considered moving. In 2017, CBS approached him to anchor the “Evening News,” but he ultimately refused.

CNN chairman Jeff Zucker has tried to attract star talent – including MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow – to its new streaming service, which media analysts say is critical to the channel’s future as Viewers are moving away from traditional television. To borrow industry jargon, Mr. Wallace is a “big hit.”

“It’s not often that a news agency has the opportunity to be someone of Chris Wallace’s caliber on board,” Zucker said in a statement Sunday. The hiring comes following an embarrassing episode for CNN, which fired its highest-rated presenter, Chris Cuomo, on ethical grounds.

On his last Fox News show, Mr. Wallace said he felt “real sadness” that his time on the network was up.

“For the last time, dear friends, that’s all for today,” he concluded. “Have a great week, and I hope you keep watching ‘Fox News Sunday’.”