8 Things You Might Not Know About Chris Wallace
Like swaying boxers hoping for a knockout in the late rounds, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will square up one final time on October 19. Moderating the debate will be Chris Wallace, a Fox News anchor with more than 50 years logged in broadcasting. Here’s what we’ve found out about the man in the middle.
1. YES, HE’S MIKE WALLACE’S SON.
Chris Wallace was born to Mike and Norma Wallace in 1947, shortly before his parents divorced and his father remarried in 1949. As a result, Chris didn’t see much of his father growing up. “I moved from Chicago with my second wife, Buff Cobb, to New York, where we had a TV show together,” Mike Wallace told Playboy in 1996. “Chris was in Chicago and, as a little kid, had no idea who I was. I was wrapped up in my work and my new marriage … I was an absent father.” (The two later reconciled, with Mike Wallace indicating they had become “much closer.”)
2. HIS DAD ONCE SCOOPED HIM.
After strengthening their father-son bond, Mike and Chris Wallace experienced a period of acrimony in the 1990s after Mike swiped an interview with comedian Chris Rock from under his son’s nose. They were not on speaking terms for several months.
3. HE HAD A CRUSH ON WALTER KRONKITE’S DAUGHTER.
Although he didn’t see much of his father growing up, Wallace grew interested in journalism from an early age thanks to his mother’s marriage to CBS News president Bill Leonard. It was Leonard who got the 16-year-old Wallace a job as a gopher for broadcaster Walter Kronkite during the 1964 Democratic and Republication national conventions—a gig that was memorable less for Kronkite and more for the crush Wallace developed on his 15-year-old daughter, Nancy, who wound up becoming his girlfriend. “She didn’t look at all like Walter, thankfully,” Wallace later recalled.
4. HE GOT ARRESTED AT HARVARD.
Wallace graduated Harvard in good company, counting actor Tommy Lee Jones and future vice president Al Gore among his classmates. During his senior year in 1969, Wallace was covering a peaceful student protest against the Vietnam War when the campus called in state police to clear the demonstration; Wallace was among those arrested and taken to jail. While there, he used his only phone call to dial in a report to campus radio station WHRB. He signed off the verbal correspondence with, “This is Chris Wallace in custody.”
5. HE AVOIDED CBS ON PURPOSE.
After working at The Boston Globe and several local television affiliates, Wallace was offered a job at CBS News in Washington in 1975 but turned it down. The reason? His father and stepfather had been longtime CBS employees and the younger Wallace feared accusations of nepotism. He took a job at an NBC affiliate before moving on to becoming chief White House correspondent and Meet the Press host for NBC in the 1980s.
6. HE GOT RONALD REAGAN PEEVED.
As a White House correspondent, Wallace was present for most of Ronald Reagan’s tenure in the 1980s. Once, after the U.S. military intercepted an Egyptian airliner that held Palestinian terrorists, reporters crowded around Reagan seeking comment. He ignored every question but Wallace’s: “Do you have anything to apologize for?” Reagan turned, shouted “Never!” and went on his way.
7. HE’S GOT NO TIME FOR “CRYBABIES.”
Wallace has made no denial of accusations he likes to confront his interview subjects head-on, a trait some have compared to his father’s infamous confrontations with fraudsters on 60 Minutes. “I guess … it’s in my DNA,” he told Parade in 2014. Bill Clinton once accused Wallace of “having a little smirk” during questioning; Barack Obama refused to appear on his Fox News Sunday program until just this past year, a hold-up that Wallace attributed to “crybabies” in the president’s administration.
8. HE’S BEEN TOUGH ON TRUMP.
In moderating primary debates, Wallace antagonized Donald Trump by preparing a series of graphics on deficit spending and defense that helped illustrate contradictions in the Republican nominee’s plans. Later, Trump said that Chris is “only a tiny fraction of Mike, believe me.”
Generating the graphics assumed Trump would say some specific things, a risk Wallace was willing to take. “Do I take a certain pleasure when I open the gate and he decides to walk down the path and I’ve got the bear trap at the end of the path?” Wallace said. “Yeah. Sure.”