Who will abandon Fox News next?

You may have heard that after 18 years on Fox News Channel, Chris Wallace has quit. He’s moving on to CNN’s new streaming platform, where, he says, he’ll cover topics that “go beyond politics to all the things I’m interested in.” 

I suspect there’s more to this story than meets the eye. 

Fox, after all, has its own streaming platform — Fox Nation. And if Wallace wanted to remain at Fox — and if Fox wanted to keep him, as news reports indicate — a deal could have been struck to have him do the kinds of stories he wants to do, on the Fox streaming service. But he chose CNN over Fox. 

Wallace was one of Fox News Channel’s top stars, someone who really believed in the network’s one-time motto of “Fair and Balanced” coverage, which was replaced with “Most Watched, Must Trusted” in 2017. That belief alone made Wallace enemies among some of Fox’s most loyal, most partisan viewers.

They thought he was too tough on conservatives, which to the hard-core right, constitutes a kind of journalistic treason. They expect Fox anchors to spout the party line. But Wallace wouldn’t pander. Yes, he was tough on conservative Republicans — but he was also tough on liberal Democrats. 

While Wallace was moderating the 2020 presidential debate, conservative commentator Dana Loesch, a frequent guest on Fox News, was on Twitter tearing into Wallace throughout the evening.  

“Never allow Chris Wallace to moderate another debate again,” she tweeted. “Wallace’s CONSTANT interruptions are more ridiculous than either of them talking over each other,” was another tweet from Loesch. And this tweet from Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade: “Why is Joe Biden allowed to interrupt? Donald Trump is not.” Later, he added, “Looks like 2 v 1 at times tonight.”

There’s a good chance Wallace had enough of being on the wrong end of conservative wrath.  And according to NPR, “The exit of the 74-year-old host follows a series of clashes over the network’s direction. Wallace has occasionally rebuked his colleagues on air over their fawning coverage of then-President Donald Trump.” 

If he had enough of that “fawning coverage,” he wasn’t alone. In November, two high-profile conservative contributors — Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg — said they didn’t want to be associated with the channel anymore, a channel that Kevin Williamson at National Review called “the Trump administration in exile.” 

Hayes and Goldberg left, as NPR explained, “in protest of what they called a pattern of incendiary and fabricated claims by the network’s hosts in support of Trump. Both men cited [Tucker] Carlson’s Jan. 6 special as their breaking point.”

In a written statement, they said, “In late October, Tucker Carlson aired a promotion for a series he produced for Fox Nation, Fox’s subscription streaming service, called Patriot Purge. It’s a revisionist history of January 6, one in which those who participated in the rally and subsequent storming of the Capitol are victims. … The message of the series? The U.S. government is coming after patriots as part of a ‘War on Terror 2.0,’ using the same tools and tactics used to fight al-Qaeda.

“This isn’t true, and it’s dangerous to pretend it is. And for us, it was way too far. We resigned after watching the series in its entirety and asked Fox to release us from the rest of our contracts.”

Here’s something else that may have led to Wallace’s decision to leave Fox: According to news reports, he and Fox News anchor Bret Baier warned network executives about Carlson’s coverage of the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Apparently that warning fell on deaf ears. They chose Carlson over their two top journalists; they didn’t pull the documentary from their streaming service. That’s another reason I think there’s more to the story that has come to light thus far.

And now we learn from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot that three Fox opinion show hosts texted Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that day, telling him to get Trump to call off the rioters. Laura Ingraham texted, “Mark, the president needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy.” Brian Kilmeade sent a text to Meadows, saying, “Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.” Sean Hannity texted: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.”

Those appear to be the words of activists looking out for their friend. I’m pretty sure Chris Wallace wouldn’t be on board with that, either.

I heard from a wise, conservative friend after Hayes and Goldberg left Fox News. In an email, he told me, “What’s happened with FOX News makes me sick. Its coming into being was great for journalism and great for the country. And for a long time it remained so. And they still have some first-rate journalists. But they sold their souls to … Trump and they’re too damn stupid to realize the damage they’ve done to the conservative cause they claim to espouse.”

I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Chris Wallace felt the same way.

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Patreon page. Follow him on Twitter @BernardGoldberg.

Tags cable TV Chris Wallace CNN Donald Trump fox & friends Fox News Joe Biden Laura Ingraham Mark Meadows News Coverage of White House Sean Hannity Tucker Carlson

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