Fox's Chris Wallace calls out Trump for the 'most sustained assault on freedom of the press' in US history

Fox News host Chris WallaceChristopher (Chris) WallaceWolf Blitzer will host an evening newscast on CNN's streaming service Audie Cornish hired by CNN, will host show and podcast on streaming service The five biggest media stories of 2021 MORE on Wednesday said President TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy  Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE's continued attacks against the media amounted to the most "direct, sustained assault on the freedom of the press" in U.S. history.

“He has done everything he can to undercut the media, to try and delegitimize us,” Wallace said at a Newseum event in Washington, D.C., honoring the museum’s legacy ahead of its shuttering at the end of the year. 

“I think his purpose is clear: to raise doubts when we report critically about him and his administration that we can be trusted. Back in 2017, he tweeted something that said far more about him than it did about us: ‘The fake news media is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people.’"

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Wallace went on to note that Trump's sustained attacks have "done some damage," pointing to a Freedom Forum Institute poll that found that 29 percent of Americans say the First Amendment goes "too far." 

"And 77 percent say 'fake news' is a serious threat to our democracy," Wallace added. 

Wallace also invoked William McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden and who called Trump's anti-media sentiment the "greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime." 

"I've got to say I was a little surprised by that. This is a guy who fought the Soviet Union. This is an admiral who fought Islamic terrorism," Wallace said. "But when I asked Bill about this, this was his response: 'Those threats brought us together. ... The president and I swore an oath to the Constitution. When the president says the media is the enemy of the people, to me that undermines the Constitution. So I do think it is a tremendous threat to our democracy.'"  

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The comments served as a theme of Wallace’s address, which spanned the Fox News anchor’s career and the current state of political journalism. Wallace, the host of "Fox News Sunday," has gained a reputation as an aggressive questioner of guests across the political spectrum, including Trump administration officials like aide Stephen MillerStephen MillerThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Pennsylvania Republican David McCormick launches Senate campaign McEnany sits down with Jan. 6 investigators MORE, acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyTrump's relocation of the Bureau of Land Management was part of a familiar Republican playbook Jan. 6 committee issues latest round of subpoenas for rally organizers The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - To vote or not? Pelosi faces infrastructure decision MORE and former press secretary Sarah HuckabeeSarah SandersHow Biden should sell his infrastructure bill Trump expected to resume rallies in June Andrew Giuliani planning run for New York governor MORE Sanders.

Wallace has pushed Democrats equally, and he has hosted multiple town halls on the network featuring Democratic presidential candidates. 

The broadcaster has been the frequent target of the president's ire in recent months over his coverage of the House impeachment inquiry. In November, the president ripped Wallace as "nasty" and "obnoxious" after he disputed comments House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseSupreme Court handcuffs Biden on vaccinations House GOP campaign arm rakes in 0M in 2021 House Republicans call for oversight into Biden's 'failed' COVID-19 response MORE (R-La.) made about the impeachment hearings. 

Wallace addressed those comments for the first time Thursday, quipping that "afterwards, one of my sons said, 'Nasty? No. Obnoxious? Well.'" 

Trump has repeatedly railed against members of the press during his time as president, often referring to them as the "enemy of the people" and "fake news." While many Fox News opinion hosts regularly praise the president, Trump has in recent months shown a willingness to go after the network's news anchors and its polling department. 

Wallace warned that journalists shouldn't let Trump's "constant bashing of the media as a rationale, as an excuse to cross the line themselves." He also urged against reporters allowing their "animus" of the president to be plain to see in their reporting.