“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace challenged Donald Trump in an interview this weekend on several hot button issues, including the reopening of schools, the COVID-19 mortality numbers and his November opponent, Joe Biden.
First up, Wallace challenged the president’s boast that Biden would not do as well on a cognitive test as he did.
“Well, I’ll tell you what, let’s take a test,” Trump said. “Let’s take a test right now. Let’s go down, Joe and I will take a test. Let him take the same test that I took.”
Wallace persisted, pointing out the test included questions as easy as identifying an elephant in a lineup and solving simple subtraction problems. But Trump, as he has often done when challenged on his claims, did not back down.
“Because, yes, the first few questions are easy, but I’ll bet you couldn’t even answer the last five questions. I’ll bet you couldn’t, they get very hard, the last five questions,” he said.”
Wallace, who was praised by Trump’s critics for his work, went on to challenge a number of claims from both the president and those within his administration. Here are some examples.
1.) Reopening the economy v. mortality rates
The Trump Administration has pushed hard to reopen businesses despite a lack of proper protective measures against a resurgence of COVID-19 infections. This weekend, as infections continue to hit record highs, Trump told Wallace that the U.S. had “one of the lowest mortality rates in the world” and referred to European CDC data provided by the White House proving this.
Wallace showed on his broadcast that mortality rates recorded by Johns Hopkins contradict the COVID-19 task force member Dr. Deborah Birx‘s comments that the U.S.’s “mortality rates are less than those three countries, and that’s really due to the incredible work of our front-line hospital workers.”
Wallace noted that countries like Russia have lower COVID-19 mortality rates but are not included in the White House data, while the Johns Hopkins and European CDC data has conflicting numbers over whether the U.S. has a worse mortality rate than Brazil, which is also seeing spikes in COVID infections.
2.) Attacks on the media
Attacking press outlets who criticize him has been a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign and presidency, and Wallace has not taken kindly to it.
“He has done everything he can to undercut the media, to try and delegitimize us, and I think his purpose is clear: to raise doubts when we report critically about him and his administration that we can be trusted,” Wallace said in an interview at the Newseum in 2019.
Trump’s attacks have even extended to Wallace himself. Wallace noted during the interview that Trump has insulted him on Twitter, calling him a “Mike Wallace wannabe” (Chris’ father is legendary newsman Mike Wallace) and “nasty and obnoxious.”
“One of your beefs seems to be that I put Democrats on the show and I ask them questions. And I guess the question I have is, don’t you understand it’s my job to put Democrats on as well as Republicans? And to ask them probing questions just like I ask Republicans?”
“I’m not a big fan of ‘Fox,’ I’ll be honest with you. They’ve changed a lot since Roger Ailes [died],” Trump replied. “And I watch people like [Rep. Eric] Swalwell, who I don’t even know, he goes on the show, he got less than 1 percent, all of a sudden he’s … being interviewed for endless hours.”
3.) Schools and COVID-19
In recent weeks, there’s been a bitter debate over whether it is safe to reopen schools next month in the midst of a pandemic, and Trump’s threat to pull federal funding from schools that don’t reopen has only increased the fervor. Wallace told Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, “You can’t do that. I know you support vouchers, and that’s a reasonable argument, but you can’t do that unilaterally. You have to do that through Congress.”
Wallace brought that up during his interview with Trump, pointing out that federal funding only accounts for 8% of all public school funding and that most of it goes to schools in disadvantaged communities. But Trump insisted that schools need to open, citing that only one death in New Jersey has been of someone under the age of 18. Trump did not comment on faculty safety for those schools or reports that 85 newborns in Texas were reported to have tested positive for the virus this weekend.
4.) Rally numbers
Wallace clamped down on attempts by Trump surrogates to turn appearances on his show into campaign speeches. Last month, Trump held a rally at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, despite pandemic concerns, only for less than 7,000 supporters to show up. Plans to make a speech to overflow crowds were canceled, and the rally inside held a crowd that was approximately a third of its crowd capacity of more than 19,000.
When Trump complained during this weekend’s interview about how state governments are preventing him from holding rallies, Wallace brought up the health risks that would come with such mass gatherings.
“I would guarantee if everything was gone 100%, they still wouldn’t allow it,” Trump fired back. “They’re not allowing me to do it. So they’re not — they’re not allowing me to have rallies.”
Watch the complete interview above.