Tonight–perhaps more so than at the previous two presidential debates–the moderator will be a focal point for many in the nation. Even though Chris Wallace is respected in journalistic circles there is no way to dismiss the fact he works for FAUX News. In light of the tarnished image that network has this year in light of their role in Republican politics and the sex scandal with their former chairman there is also another matter that is in play.
The media was played too often by Donald Trump who used free airtime in the primary season and was not vetted in the same way other candidates are simply due to the fact he made for good ratings. The role of journalists has been much a topic this cycle and there is clear evidence that a robust and determined moderator who requires answers of Trump is what must happen at tonight’s debate.
Wallace has a job as moderator but he also has a duty as a journalist with this last major audience of the campaign to make sure the public is aware of the stakes in this election.
Months after the ouster of Roger Ailes, Fox’s longtime chairman, the network is seeking to move forward, even as sadness and anger linger over the revelations from multiple women who have come forward to accuse Mr. Ailes of sexual harassment. Unease remains: Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly recently feuded on Twitter, the sort of friendly fire once considered a network taboo. Stars like Ms. Kelly have mused about leaving.
So for the team of Fox anchors and producers here this week, Mr. Wallace’s star turn is a welcome source of pride. And, maybe, some relief.
“It was something that was really positive in, you know, not the best of years,” said Bret Baier, Fox’s chief political anchor, as he relaxed in his hotel room after an afternoon taping.
Fox News is relentlessly promoting Wednesday’s debate, frequently broadcasting a photograph of a smiling Mr. Wallace in the corner of the screen. (Other networks use images of Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump.)
The selection of Mr. Wallace, a veteran broadcaster with a reputation for tough, mischief-making questions, was particularly bolstering for Fox’s news division, which has viewed itself as an unfairly maligned alternative to the network’s stable of conservative commentators like Mr. Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. The commentators provide opinion, the in-house mantra goes, while the news team deals in facts.