NEW YORK — Chris Wallace may have fewer Sunday-morning viewers than his rivals on the weekly political chat shows, but he concedes nothing on quality.
“I think we do a better job,” the “Fox News Sunday” host said. “I think we separate what’s important from what isn’t. If you look at our interviews, I think they tend to be tougher, more informative, more interesting and produce more news. I like where we stand.”
David Gregory, Bob Schieffer and George Stephanopolous — you can discuss this among yourselves. Wallace is in a celebratory mood. This weekend marks the 10-year anniversary of when the longtime NBC and ABC newsman jumped to Fox for the Sunday-morning job.
ABC’s “This Week,” NBC’s “Meet the Press” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” all average between 2.5 million and 3 million viewers on Sunday morning, according to the Nielsen company. “Fox News Sunday,” on the Fox broadcasting network, averages 1.1 million. It is rebroadcast three times Sunday afternoon, evening and overnight on the Fox News Channel, adding 2 million more viewers.
Work at Roger Ailes’ news division carries with it an inherent suspicion about political motives among Democrats, as illustrated when former President Bill Clinton was angered by Wallace’s 2006 question about why his administration didn’t put Osama bin Laden out of business. Clinton called the question “a conservative hit job.”
Wallace confesses annoyance when that attitude is turned on its head and insults his skills as a journalist.
“I have to say it bothers me a little that it gets more attention when I do a tough, probing interview with a Republican,” he said. “There are people who don’t know better who think there’s a man-bites-dog story — somebody on Fox being tough on a Republican. Look at my history.”
There’s the Clinton episode, but also the show where — to his later regret — he bluntly asked Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann if she was a flake. Jon Stewart ripped Wallace for comparing the impact of the botched health care plan rollout on President Barack Obama to Hurricane Katrina for President George W. Bush.
Yet Wallace angered Republicans by dismissing their charges that an Obama statement after the Trayvon Martin verdict stoked racial tensions.
The point is, there’s always something one side or the other can cite when a political favorite is being challenged, said Tim Graham of the conservative media watchdog group Media Research Center.
“People (in the conservative movement) think of Fox as a home team,” Graham said, “but I certainly don’t think of Chris Wallace as a home team host.”