Chris Wallace got his start in journalism in 1964, when the Republican presidential candidate was an uncompromising and divisive figure who even some fellow Republicans believed was too belligerent and unpredictable to be president.
So you could say Wallace has been preparing for Donald Trump his whole life.
Wallace will be the first-ever Fox News Channel journalist to moderate a general election debate when he takes the stage with Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
He was only 16 when he worked as a gofer for Walter Cronkite at the 1964 Republican National Convention where nominee Barry Goldwater famously intoned, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice [and] moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”
Wednesday’s debate may also make history. Wallace was on point when he told told TheWrap in January that Trump is “politically incorrect and unpredictable.”
“So there is that sense of, kind of, danger. What’s he going to say?”
That was well before Trump said a barrage of unpredictable things, including claims of the election being “rigged,” saying Hillary Clinton would be in jail if he were president and even mocking a Gold Star family. To say nothing of the 2005 Billy Bush tape in which he boasted about grabbing women’s genitals.
Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Monday night that Wallace will be a good moderator because he’ll “cut the nonsense” out fast and is a “tough guy” like his father, “60 Minutes” anchor Mike Wallace, who passed away in 2012.
Wednesday’s debate probably won’t make ratings history. The second 2016 presidential debate netted 66.5 million viewers, placing it far shy of the first one, which scored 84 million. The third should settle somewhere in between.
That’s okay: Wallace and Trump have already set a ratings record. Alongside Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, Wallace moderated three GOP primary debates during this election cycle. The first primary debate that Wallace co-moderated is the most-watched non-sporting event in cable history, with 24 million viewers.
Wallace has hosted “Fox News Sunday” for 13 years, making him the longest-serving current host of any of the Sunday public affairs show. In 2016, “Fox News Sunday” is delivering its highest-rated year in total viewers since 2004, and has grown 18 percent since last year.