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As 78-year-old Democratic presidential contender Bernie Sanders rises to the top of the 2020 campaign heap, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace says that everyone — across the television news industry — is working overtime to accurately cover his success.
Wallace told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview Tuesday night that Fox News has “absolutely” taken Sanders’ candidacy seriously. (The network hosted Sanders at a town hall event in April 2019.)
Fox News’ rival, MSNBC, has taken some criticism for a handful of comments made by hosts and on-air contributors. On Monday night, MSNBC host Chris Matthews apologized to Sanders for comparing his rise to the Nazi invasion of France in the summer of 1940.
“Not that I know or particularly care, but the campaign manager for the Sanders campaign says we’ve treated them more fairly than MSNBC has,” Wallace told THR. “Lord knows nobody on Fox has compared Sanders’ victory in Nevada to the occupation of Paris by the Nazis, so I think we’re probably ahead of the game.”
Wallace added, “Just as the Trump phenomenon was kind of surprising I think to a lot of political reporters and under-covered until fairly late in the game, similarly I think right now we’re all sort of struggling to understand the Bernie Sanders phenomenon and the degree to which — you know, is this going to sweep him to the nomination?”
Earlier in the night, during a discussion hosted by the Common Ground Committee at Columbia University, Wallace was asked if he’d be interested in moderating a potential presidential debate between Trump and Sanders.
“We’re in February, so it’s a little premature,” Wallace said later. “So, on the one hand you want to be sensitive to things, but you don’t want to be jumping the gun on it either.”
Wallace was also asked about his relationship with Fox Corp co-chairman Rupert Murdoch. “I’ve met him, and I’ve talked with him, and the thing I say about Rupert is that he’s the rare news executive — when I talk to Rupert and Lachlan, which is not a lot, they have newsprint under their fingernails,” he said. “He cares tremendously about the news. And, I will tell you, when I have contact with him, he never is asking about ideology. He just wants, ‘What’s going on? What’s happening? Tell me.'”
When Wallace booked Sanders and Mayor Pete Buttigieg for the Feb. 9 edition of his Fox News Sunday show, Wallace said he got praise from up top.
“The word came down through some of the executives, ‘good get,’ from Rupert,” Wallace said. “That’s all he cared about. Good get.”
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, a veteran of the News Corp-owned New York Post, seconded Wallace’s comments about Murdoch’s news chops. “Rupert Murdoch could have laid out the newspaper when I worked at the New York Post,” she said.
Asked by THR whether he’d embrace covering four more years of the Trump presidency, were he to be re-elected, Wallace mentioned his late father, CBS News legend Mike Wallace.
“You’re talking to a man whose father was still working at 88,” Wallace said. “When I went to a job interview with Roger Ailes, I was 55 years old and I said, ‘I can only give you 30 years.’ I’ve got more than a decade left to go.”
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