Chris Wallace said he was sad after hosting the first presidential debates between Donald Trump and Joe Biden earlier this week, describing the event as “a terrible missed opportunity”.
The Fox News anchor who moderated the debate on Tuesday night said he had “no way” of knowing beforehand how the president would routinely interrupt him and Mr Biden, adding that he had “never been through anything like this” in an interview with the New York Times.
Following the debate, Mr Wallace was met with a glass of champagne and greeted by Fox News CEO Lachlan Murdoch at an airport in Cleveland. The journalist said he “didn’t feel much like celebrating” however, and flew home to Annapolis, Maryland.
Since then, he told the newspaper he had “been involved in a certain amount of soul-searching” while recalling what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most contentious presidential debates in American history.
“I’m just sad with the way last night turned out,” he said. “I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did.”
He added: “I’ve read some of the reviews. I know people think, well, gee, I didn’t jump in soon enough … guess I didn’t realize — and there was no way you could, hindsight being 20/20 — that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate but the entire debate.”
From the very first minutes of the debate, Mr Trump began interjecting and talking over his Democratic opponent.
Mr Wallace clearly struggled to gain control of the discussion, which devolved at many points into a barely-comprehendible shouting match between the two candidates for both major parties.
“I hate to raise my voice, but why should I be different than the two of you?” a frustrated Mr Wallace said at one point.
As he attempted to reign in the president, the moderator said: “I think the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I’m appealing to you, sir, to do that.”
Since this week’s debate sparked controversy and set off a discussion about whether moderators should have the ability to turn off a candidate’s microphone, the Commission on Presidential Debates has announced it will reassess how to move forward with event-formatting for the next scheduled debates of this campaign season.
Mr Wallace said he doesn’t see the point in cutting off microphones, however, and added that he felt he did the best he could given the circumstances.
“As a practical matter, even if the president’s microphone had been shut, he still could have continued to interrupt, and it might well have been picked up on Biden’s microphone, and it still would have disrupted the proceedings in the hall,” he said. “Generally speaking, I did as well as I could, so I don’t have any second thoughts there.”