Third Presidential Debate Chris Wallace Moderator Trump Clinton

Third Presidential Debate: How Did Fox News' Chris Wallace Do as Moderator?

For Wednesday’s third and (thank goodness) final presidential debate, it was Fox News anchor Chris Wallace’s turn to sit in the moderator’s chair. With Election Day less than three weeks away and plenty of hostility on both sides, tensions were running high between candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (They didn’t even shake hands at the start of the debate.) But did Wallace manage to keep the peace?

After loudly complaining about the bias shown by the last two debates’ moderators — even while the debates were happening — Trump could hardly object to Wallace, who’s been an anchor on Republican-friendly Fox News since 2003. (Then again, Trump did get into a feud with Megyn Kelly last year, so all bets are off.) But Wallace, the son of longtime 60 Minutes anchor Mike Wallace, is also a well-traveled and respected journalist, logging 14 years at NBC and another 14 years at ABC during his four decades in the field. So it’s tough for the Clinton campaign to paint him as a right-wing ideologue.

There were hints of Wallace’s Fox News loyalties early on when he went right after Clinton on gun rights, quoting her as saying “the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment.” (She responded by insisting she supports the Second Amendment and clarifying her stance on gun control.) He later quoted Wikileaks (!) when questioning Clinton about her “open borders” stance on immigration, and she was quick to point out that those leaked documents were stolen by hackers, pivoting to challenge Trump on Russia and Vladimir Putin.

But to be fair, Wallace did also press Trump on Roe v. Wade and his recent contentions that the election is “rigged.” He brought up the recent accusations of sexual assault against Trump. And he fired back when Trump tried to talk over him: “Mr. Trump, I’m not a potted plant here. I do get to ask some questions.” So all in all, Wallace held both candidates’ feet to the fire, reading their own quotes back to them and forcing them to explain their positions at length.

Yes, there was the usual back-and-forth between Trump and Clinton, yelling over each other at times. But in general, Wallace kept a tight leash on things, cutting both candidates off after short answers and turning to their opponent for direct rebuttals. It was probably the most orderly of the three debates so far, with Wallace at least trying to keep Trump and Clinton on schedule. As a result, we saw somewhat less bickering between the candidates and a stronger focus on the issues. (Which was nice… while it lasted.)

Wallace did say last month that “I don’t believe it is my job to be a truth squad,” so we shouldn’t be surprised that he didn’t fact-check either candidate much during the debate. But he allowed both candidates to lay out their platforms, and demonstrated a commanding knowledge of current events with his follow-up questions. It wasn’t perfect, but thanks to Wallace’s precise approach, this third debate might have been the most informative and substantial so far.

How do you think Chris Wallace did as debate moderator? Grade his performance in the poll below, then hit the comments to share your thoughts.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Kermit says:

    Can we vote for him?

    • butopia1502 says:

      Yes, nice job Mr. Wallace. You kept them between the lines without injecting a personal bias or agenda. Well done.

    • Mike M says:

      Dear God, I was scrolling down to right those exact same words. How ironic to be presented with a man fronting this nightmare of a pair of candidates who, while arguably biased (and certainly biased if he was simply splashed with the “He’s Fox” brush) still did the best job in many cycles of holding a balanced and controlled debate; let alone of this pair; let alone in their final debate; let alone with all the media insanity surrounding the current campaigns. Congratulations Chris Wallace, YOU won this debate.

      • sunshine says:

        It’s amazing how many people hate FOX News until they watch it. Or how surprised they are when they find that the news people are extremely balanced. Stay away from the O’Reilly/Hannity type “Commentary” shows and you have an extremely intelligent, highly respected news station.

  2. Coop says:

    Best moderator in a long, long time. Very impressive given the two candidates he had to deal with tonight. Nice to actually get to some key policy questions, even if they both lied and/or dodged them completely.

    • Television Scout says:

      Agreed, I like Wallace too, but who’s job is it to ensure that the candidates don’t dodge the questions? What good are good questions when they go unanswered? What do we, the viewers, learn from that experience?
      Wallace didn’t spend one second of his time trying to ensure his questions got answered – not one, with the possible exception of a time or two with Trump. With Hillary, never once did Wallace bother to ensure she answered. She successfully steered the questioning back to Trump, and Wallace took her bait hook, line and sinker every time. That folks, is not getting the job done as a moderator.
      Grade for Wallace: D, and his father is spinning in his grave.

      • Mike M says:

        There are very specific rules around the mods role and the format. He upheld both pretty much perfectly. In short that does mean letting the “run” to a certain degree within the format and the time limits etc. I don’t disagree with you that pressing for answers and holding them both to the wall with a proverbial gun to their heads would not have been very interesting, but it wasn’t actually allowed. The point at the end from that as a takeaway is to watch and gauge for yourself just how well each candidate actually answers the questions, or instead sidesteps, or insults the opposition. Since they both did and always would do both those things, the format you and I really want would kinda likely end up going in circles forever and still be on question four after an hour and a half. So I personally feel where he did well was letting them say what the wanted to and moving the questions on, holding the audience out – so we actually got more answers to more questions. And then as with the whole purpose of any political debate, the listener gets to decide what (if anything) that the candidates said, won them over one way or another. In short yes great idea but if he held them to account he’d have been talking for over an hour of the debate. So I think his dad would have actually been pretty proud myself.

  3. Antwon303 says:

    Chris gets my vote as the worst moderator of the three debates. He was NOT in control and when Donald challenged him on time and going over….Chris backed down each time and let down bulldoze him until he was done rambling. I vote fail.

  4. Maria Picard says:

    Chris Wallace at times favored Hillary Clinton because he wasn’t strong enough to get her to shut her mouth when she kept on blah, blah, blahing. And how is it Hillary had the first chance at answering most of Chris’s questions. Chris also was more inclined to allow HIllary to rebut as opposed to Donald.

  5. Smooshiest says:

    I have to say I wasn’t looking forward to Chris because he said he wouldn’t moderate at all, only ask questions. He ended up taking the high road, so good for him.

  6. Karen B says:

    I felt it was the same ole same ole and I expected more from Mr Wallace. Why do they let Hilary go on and on and on when they can’t wait to interrupt Mr Trump and let him know his time is up. Soooo one sided it literally made me sick. At 65 I am truly ashamed of how corrupt our government and how biased our news has become.

    • Anne says:

      Wow. I’m always surprised people like you actually exist. Let me guess the media is rigging it for Clinton? Also why is it Mr Trump but you mention Hilary as Hilary? stop defending this disable mocking, woman hating thin skinned bully of a man who is just using people like you.

    • Mary says:

      Well I am not as old as you are but I can’t believe how many actually make excuses for someone who obviously does not respect our democracy. Funny he used that “bias” media during the primary to get free coverage with no fact checking whatsoever and actually won because of it IMO. Is our Government perfect far from it but it stills holds up to other nation. I am ashamed that we have many who do not comprehend or have a clue on how and what our Constitution stands for. Just because Trump lost doesn’t make it unfair. Re-watch because both sides went past their time.

    • Mary says:

      For the record Clinton interrupt 5 times to Trump’s 37 so I think he might of had more speaking time. The problem is he rabbles and doesn’t get to the point, probably because he doesn’t have one, so the moderator does have to stop him.

  7. Dorcas Gale says:

    Questions were well thought out and Chris brought up concerns everyone has on both candidates. Thanks Chris for your impartial commentating. You are truly a class act.

  8. Mark says:

    So you said, “There were hints of Wallace’s Fox News loyalties early on when he went right after Clinton on…”

    Let me get this straight. A moderator at a Presidential debate ask tough questions to both candidates, and you say that is because of his political leanings instead of because he was doing his job of asking tough questions of both sides and where they stand on the important issues? Seriously??

    Please stick to entertainment news and get out of the politics business. It’s not what I come to this site for anyway.

  9. Nancy. Hugus says:

    Why did Chris not ask Hillary if she would concede. To Donald if he wins? Fair???

    • Annie says:

      Because she’s not out there on the campaign trail saying the election is rigged and questioning the democratic process.

    • Mary says:

      I believe in the last debate she said she would accept the outcome. Trump knows that he took a big nose dive after the tape showing truly who he is as a person. He is master at deflection so he is already setting up for his defeat. If nothing else, which is obvious to the majority of us, Trump doesn’t take responsibility for his actions or failures, which is proof that he is not a true LEADER. It is one thing to complain about the Government and the system but when you are clueless and try to run for the highest office you take the chance of looking like a idiot which is exactly how he presents himself.

  10. Carol says:

    Why didn’t Chris Wallace ask Hillery the same question as he asked Donald about accepting her if she wins. It was like everyone should know that she will win.

    • Csb says:

      Because she has answered that question multiple times and said yes. While Trump has been vague or said he wouldn’t.

      Why would they ask the same question she has already answered?

  11. Tim Sullivan says:

    Excellent job with the debate

  12. Karen L Prudhomme says:

    Mr. Wallace was fair and balanced…did not inject his opinion…allowed the candidates to debate. He was equally direct with questions to both candidates…how refreshing. Exceptional work Mr. Wallace

  13. Kathy says:

    Chris – failed. The “fox build-up” for Chris Wallace did not deliver. I think he was overwhelmed.

    • Mary says:

      I thought he was great. He was truly a fair moderator and asked both sides tough questions. I know many Fox fans were hoping for a Clinton attack and letting Trump slide, but Chris actually did his job and was professional. You can watch Hannity for the fox build up you want.

  14. niloofar says:


  15. Kathy says:

    Chris Wallace failed. The FOX “anticipation” did not deliver. Very disappointing.

  16. how is it az is voting democrat lol I live in AZ and I can honestly say 95% or more cars have trump stickers or signs in yards/businesses. AZ is a red state Clinton is wrong and any source stating AZ is voting blue is incorrect and or lying.

    • Annie says:

      “any source”
      Oookay then.

      • Kyle says:

        I live in Arizona, Tucson to be exact, and Elishia is right. Arizona always votes red. I mean I believe only one city sometimes votes blue and that’s Tucson cause of 4th

        • Annie says:

          I’m not questioning that AZ historically votes red – that’s easily gathered fact. I’m talking about the belief that “any source” with polls showing AZ leaning blue this election are simply incorrect and or lying. Just because the information is disliked or challenges preconceived notions doesn’t mean it’s automatically wrong, or worse, deliberately false.

    • Susannah says:

      The power of Donald Trump, turning red states blue for the first time!

  17. Nicolas says:

    Congratulation Chris Wallace …. great debate ! #foxnews

  18. Roy says:

    Chris Wallace had his hands full, but did an absolutely outstanding job with this debate. Fair and impartial; it was an actual debate instead of a circus. He should be the Moderator for all future Presidential Debates. If he can handle these two candidates, he can handle anybody!!! This was probably the fairest debate I’ve ever seen. Really, really well done!!!

  19. Big Cheddar says:

    I thought Chris did a great job – he asked them both tough and direct questions and tried his best to corner both for an answer when they pivoted too far off the topic. I think he made his dad really proud.

    • Television Scout says:

      …” he asked them both tough and direct questions and tried his best to corner both for an answer when they pivoted too far off the topic.”

      We agree on that. The question is, did Mr. Wallace succeed in ensuring the candidates did not pivot too far off topic and actually answered some questions? Did you learn anything new from this debate?

      • Mary says:

        Not really, but have some confirmation of what I thought was true. The undecided might have been swayed and not in Trump’s favorite.

  20. Will Walace says:

    Well done! We had a REAL debate, thanks to Mr. Wallace! He has done his profession proud.

  21. peterwdawson says:

    He was fine. Curious if that potted plant line is somehow going to turn into a half-baked SNL bit where it turns out Wallace likes to rest his feet in soil or something.

  22. Cynthia says:

    Chris Wallace was a fantastic and strong moderator tonight! This was the best debate out of them all.

  23. michaeljosephangelo says:

    I never thought that I would say such a thing about any Fox News anchor, but…he was terrific. He was the best moderator of the three debates by a mile.

  24. Mr. Wallace earned a C-minus at best.
    Several times he said he had a similar question for both — but only required Trump to answer and then skipped the same question for Clinton or let her run out the clock by avoiding the question. Examples:
    1) Will you abide by the election results — Given the increasing reports of election fraud in PA, NY, IN, Florida and other states, who would not be conditional? In addition, there is now an admission that the Clinton/Democrat machine is engaged in dirty tricks including violence at Trump events. And THEN — didn’t push the same question with Clinton, just let her go on and bloviate about how shocked she was — she who is above the law.
    2) Mr. Wallace pulled the same one-answer question on the subject of treatment of women — and said he wanted Trump to respond to the allegations against him and then Clinton respond to the allegations against her and her husband regarding the “bimbo eruptions.” Trump responded and Clinton took off against Trump while Wallace sat there — apparently forgetting his question to her.
    3) Apparently only Mr. Wallace’s “Trump Clock” worked and his “Clinton Clock” was broken; because he permitted her to go on and on and on — while never answering questions. It was obvious why Trump began to intercede on his own behalf. Mr. Wallace couldn’t do his job. It’s great to be tough on both, as long as you’re tough on both.

    Finally, Trump missed a great opportunity when Clinton started complaining about Putin interfering in the election. Good grief — Tell us again about Clinton’s unsecured servers which multiple countries could hack and probably did, bleached-washed hard drives, destruction of 30,000 e-mails AFTER the subpoena was issued. And how does her behavior with Benghazi demonstrate her mind set to act as Commander-in-Chief?

    • Mary says:

      Rinse, repeat same old even when proven inaccurate. Funny the ones given Wallace a bad grade are because Trump lost pure and simple and like him cannot accept defeat.

  25. Sarah says:

    NOT a potted plant!! Well done.

  26. Charles Bertelsen says:

    I am certainly not a fan of Fox News, but Chris Wallace did an outstanding job as moderator of the third presidential debate. I think he did the best job of all the moderators in the debate.

  27. Sally McNamara says:

    Congratulations to Chris Wallace-best debate moderator by far. Mid debate when they were both talking at same time, I was hoping he would call out ‘Stop Talking’ & announce a ~30 second timeout & then continue only if both agreed to talk one at a time.

  28. MMD says:

    Taking into consideration that it took me until today to watch and who he was dealing with, I thought Chris Wallace did a very good job.

  29. Ella says:

    He did a good job, but should have made HRC answer the questions he asked instead of spinning her way. As usual. And let me say, I am not a Trump fan, but the press has been so very kind to her. And why wasn’t the audience shown last night? Who made that decision?

  30. HAP says:

    This race should not be this close. On one hand you have someone with decades of public service, while on the other hand you have this totally insane guy.

  31. I m almost concern about this woman after so many years living in an democratic country,coming up now when DONALD TRUMPS time come to come up now and speak out that they were sexualy assualt by him.All this years why hide and to proof it now to pysicaly destroy the so just man,but the scale of Hilary e-mails come out but most important is always not reveal,why?

  32. Ashley says:

    We should allow the mediators air horns…