“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace believes some Republicans who aren’t wild about Donald Trump will vote for him anyway because they can’t tolerate Hillary Clinton.
“I think actually for all the talk about how divided the party is, and it is, Hillary Clinton is the great unifier,” Wallace told TheWrap. “Even though a lot of Republicans don’t like Trump and don’t trust him, when it comes down to a choice, if the alternative is Clinton, some of them might hold their nose but they will vote for Trump.”
“Fox News Sunday”celebrates its 20th anniversary this weekend up 28 percent in viewers compared to last year, the biggest gain of all Sunday morning news shows. Wallace, who took over for Tony Snow seven years into the show’s run, knows the show owes some of its success to this wild election.
“What we’re going to have to figure out is, once this is finally over, and maybe it won’t be over. Maybe Trump will be president,” Wallace said. “But once it’s finally over, what are we going to do that will attract viewers as much?”
Wallace talked with us about how he got President Obama on the show, and whether Clinton will appear anytime soon.
TheWrap: You were part of the Fox News team that moderated three wildly successful debates. What’s your biggest takeaway from the primary debate process?
Wallace: I think the debates really mattered. My biggest takeaway from the first debate was, whether you liked his answers or not, was what a dominant figure Trump was and what a disappointing figure Jeb Bush was. Bush seemed to kind of disappear into the background. I came out of that debate thinking, “He just isn’t very good at this.”
Should you be chosen to moderate a general election debate?
Absolutely. What a silly question. [Laughs]. No, I do. I worked it very hard last time, talked to people on the debate commission… It’s not a coincidence that Fox has never had a moderator of a general election presidential debate. It’s interesting because I feel that the Republican members of the commission have kind of caved to the demands of the Democrats on the commission. What’s so interesting is that, in this last cycle, you had Candy Crowley of CNN intervene in the middle of a town hall meeting and basically take Obama’s side against Romney’s. I think my credentials and, frankly some of my colleague’s credentials, are such that we would conduct a fair, tough debate. No one thinks that we went easy on the Republicans.
Do you expect to be chosen?
No, I don’t.
“Fox News Sunday” is in the middle of a great run from a ratings perspective. How will you maintain the momentum?
There is no question that part of this is people’s fascination/obsession with the primaries, especially the Republican primaries and Donald Trump. I’m not going to kid myself, I understand that’s why a lot of people are tuning in. Everyone once and a while someone on my staff will say, “I wish we could do something else,” and I look at them and say, “Are you crazy?”
How did the process play out in which President Obama finally came on your show?
Oh my gosh. Well, back in 2008 he wasn’t coming on but Hillary Clinton was doing it. Obama wasn’t, so we started something called the Obama Watch. He had promised me at a press dinner in Washington that he would come on; this was back in 2006 before he was even running. In 2008 he still hadn’t come on.
The show “24” was popular back then and at the end of each segment they would put up a digital clock and show the time, etc. So we started doing that once a show with Obama saying, “it’s been 765 days, 14 hours, 22 minutes and 18 seconds” [since Obama promised to come on]. We did this for a few weeks and finally he caved and came on the show. Well, since then it had been eight years and we had asked for him to come on every week. Every week they turned us down and it was really just a matter of timing. That was when he named Merrick Garland his nominee for the Supreme Court and it struck me that the White House would be particularly interested in reaching out to voters in swing states where Republicans were up for re-election. We made the pitch and after eight years of knocking on the door with no answer, they agreed to the interview.
So why won’t Hillary come on now? You said she was always willing the last time around.
That’s a very good question. I wish you could get a good answer from her campaign. We haven’t started a Clinton Clock but we have called out her and her campaign several times.
Do you think she’ll do it eventually?
Yeah, I do. Maybe I’m just being foolishly optimistic but millions of people watch “Fox News Sunday” and yes, a lot of them are Republicans, but there are also a lot of Independents and a lot of moderate Democrats. Those are voters that she can’t ignore.
What is your favorite moment from the show’s first 20 years?
On the Sunday before Christmas, my grandchildren come into town and we’ve developed a tradition where they, my name to them is Bom Bom, they sit on Bom Bom’s lap and wish people a Merry Christmas. We’ve got the tape of it, over the years, to see them grow.