Former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace explained in a recent interview his reason for departing from the network in December, saying top network opinion hosts questioning "the truth" regarding the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot made working for the company "unsustainable."
During an interview with The New York Times, published Sunday, Wallace said he "just no longer felt comfortable with the programming at Fox."
Wallace worked for Fox News for 18 years, anchoring "Fox News Sunday" and hosting numerous presidential debates. Just hours after his announcement to leave the network, CNN said he would be joining its new streaming service, CNN+, as a host of a weekday program that will feature interviews with people involved in politics, business, sports and culture. Wallace's show – "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?" – launches Tuesday.
The veteran news anchor told The Times that his decision to leave Fox was based on several of the network's conservative opinion hosts casting doubt on the validity of the 2020 election results and questioning whether the attack on the Capitol was an insurrection.
"I'm fine with opinion: conservative opinion, liberal opinion," Wallace said. "But when people start to question the truth — Who won the 2020 election? Was Jan. 6 an insurrection? — I found that unsustainable."
"I spent a lot of 2021 looking to see if there was a different place for me to do my job," he continued.
Wallace, a registered Democrat, said he believed there had been a shift at Fox News in the aftermath of the 2020 election in which former President Donald Trump was defeated by current President Joe Biden. During this timeframe, anchor Tucker Carlson was promoted to the network's primetime lineup and the editor who helped project Biden as the winner of Arizona during the election was fired, The Times notes.
The former Fox anchor also confirmed reports that he took issue with the network's decision to broadcast Carlson's documentary, "Patriot Purge", on Fox's streaming platform, Fox Nation, and complained to network management. The documentary details what Carlson sees as the truth behind the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
"Before, I found it was an environment in which I could do my job and feel good about my involvement at Fox," Wallace said of his tenure at Fox News. "And since November of 2020, that just became unsustainable, increasingly unsustainable as time went on."
"Some people might have drawn the line earlier, or at a different point," he said, adding, "I think Fox has changed over the course of the last year and a half. But I can certainly understand where somebody would say, 'Gee, you were a slow learner, Chris.'"
The anchor's criticism of Fox comes after he defended the network's political commentary in November, telling the Financial Times that rival networks CNN and MSNBC also have opinion programming with the "same kind of feedback loop" as Fox News, but with a liberal political slant instead of a conservative one.
In February, just months after Wallace decided to join CNN, network president Jeff Zucker announced his resignation following his failure to disclose a relationship with longtime colleague Allison Gollust during the investigation into former anchor Chris Cuomo's involvement in aiding his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, against sexual harassment allegations. It was later announced that the investigation had determined Zucker, Gollust and Chris Cuomo had all violated company policies.
Wallace explained in The New York Times interview that he was "obviously unhappy" with Zucker's departure and that the situation was "not ideal" as he began his new job.
CNN's parent company, WarnerMedia, is currently undergoing a merger with Discovery that is expected to be completed in the next few weeks. Veteran media executive Chris Licht, who has previously worked for CBS's "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and MSNBC's "Morning Joe," was recently named as CNN's new president.
Wallace expanded on his basis for leaving Fox, pointing out that his gig on "Fox News Sunday" began to lose its appeal.
"I wanted to get out of politics," Wallace said. "Doing a Sunday show on the incremental change from week to week in the Build Back Better plan began to lose its attraction."
Wallace said there "has not been a moment when I have second-guessed myself" about his decision to leave Fox News.
Notably, "Fox News Sunday" with Wallace at the helm struggled to keep up with its Sunday morning show competitors. CBS's "Face the Nation," NBC's "Meet the Press" and ABC's "This Week" all consistently beat Wallace in the ratings.