By Larry O’Connor, Townhall
Every week, Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” reminds his viewers that he has asked the Biden campaign for a one-on-one interview with the Democratic nominee for president, and every week he tells us that Biden was “unavailable” for the sit-down.
“Let Biden sit through an interview like this, he’ll be on the ground crying for mommy. He’ll say, ‘Mommy, mommy, please take me home,’” President Trump noted in his infamous sit-down with Wallace last month.
Wallace told Bret Baier that week that Trump actually had a good point.
“The fact is, the president is out there. He’s out there in this broiling heat with me for an hour, he took all the questions,” Wallace said. “You can like his answers or dislike them but he had answers and Joe Biden hasn’t faced that kind of scrutiny, hasn’t faced that kind of exposure.”
“We’ll keep asking every week,” Wallace tells us as if the epitome of fair and balanced journalism is having the president sit for a no-holds-barred interview and then note that he keeps begging Biden’s team for reciprocity.
It doesn’t work like that, Mr. Wallace.
Tonight, as moderator for the first presidential showdown between Trump and Biden, Wallace is in a fascinating position.
His presence as a moderator is a sign that he was deemed acceptable by both candidates. However, only one of them found him to be worthy of a direct, face-to-face interview.
Biden has sat down with Jake Tapper, George Stephanopolous, and Lawrence O’Donnell, but apparently, he thinks he can’t handle Chris Wallace. Biden continues to snub Wallace, Fox News, and their viewers. Wallace should take it as the insult it is intended to be.
“We’ll keep asking every week!” No, actually, if Wallace takes his job as a debate moderator seriously, he should stop asking as of tonight. Biden had his chance. He blew it.
Wallace will probably approach his role tonight in an even-handed and fair manner. He will probably attempt to treat both candidates equally and the implied message to the Biden team would be interpreted as, “See? I’m not one of those crazy, Trump-loving prime time hosts on Fox news! You have nothing to fear with me… come on… give me an interview.”
If Biden accepts the invitation now, after the debate, it will be interpreted (rightly or wrongly) as a reward for his performance as a moderator. It’s too bad, but Wallace can’t avoid the appearance. He can’t have it both ways.
He has to give up on the interview with Biden and, instead, he should use this opportunity to get in the questions he would have asked in his interview.
As hard as Wallace was on Trump in his exclusive sit-down, he should use his time with Biden with the same approach and strategy.
Biden has avoided an interview with Wallace because he knows Wallace will ask him tough questions with thoroughly researched follow-ups. He knows Wallace will not let him get away with his memorized deflections as other journalists do.
This is not the moment for Wallace to prove Biden wrong and treat him in a gentle, easy-going way, thus securing the follow-up interview, which will be sure to garner huge ratings for his Fox news program.
No, this is the time to prove Joe Biden right. Show Biden that it was wise for him to avoid Wallace because Wallace knows exactly how to back Biden into a corner and challenge him in a way no other journalist can.
If Wallace does that, if he proves Biden that he was wise to avoid an interview with him, he will show himself to be the fair and balanced journalist he is reputed in Washington media circles to be.
If instead, he demonstrates to Biden that he won’t push on uncomfortable topics like Hunter Biden and General Flynn and Tara Reid, then we know that securing that interview (and the ratings) is more important than grilling a presidential candidate with the same fervor as he grilled the president last month.
It’s too bad Biden has put Wallace in this position, but this is how it is. Now, we shall see which Chris Wallace shows up.