Who is Chris Wallace? Meet the presidential debate moderator from Fox News

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace at the third 2016 presidential debate in Las Vegas.
(Getty Images)

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace will be the moderator when President Trump and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, face off at Case Western University in Cleveland on Sept. 29 for the first of three presidential debates.

The highly anticipated event will likely approach the record of 84 million viewers who watched Trump’s first meeting with Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Wallace is familiar to viewers as the host of “Fox News Sunday,” the Washington-based public affairs program that airs on the cable news channel and the Fox broadcast network.


He has long prided himself on his ability to irritate both political sides, already apparent in the run-up to the upcoming debate. Liberal pundits have complained about his choice of debate topics, which include “race and violence in our cities” and the integrity of the election — two hot-button issues for the president. But Trump has attacked Wallace as well, saying the anchor is “controlled by the radical left” without presenting any evidence.

Here is what you need to know about Wallace:

He comes from a journalism family. Chris Wallace is the son of Mike Wallace, the hard-charging correspondent who helped launch “60 Minutes” in 1968 and was a fixture on the newsmagazine for 40 years. His stepfather was Bill Leonard, a longtime executive at CBS News who served as its president from 1979 to 1982. Leonard gave a 16-year-old Chris Wallace his first job in the news business as an assistant to anchor Walter Cronkite at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

Mike Wallace
Chris Wallace was born in Chicago when his father Mike, above, worked as a TV host there.
(Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images)

He has worked for four TV network news divisions. Wallace was a student at Harvard University when he had a summer job at CBS News. He worked at the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where his father was arrested.

After a stint as a correspondent for CBS’ Chicago TV station WBBM, he joined NBC News in Washington where he covered the White House, briefly served as a co-anchor of “Today” (with Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley) in 1980 and moderated “Meet the Press.” He left in 1989 for ABC, where he was a correspondent for the news magazine “PrimeTime Live.” He joined Fox News in 2003.

Chris Wallace, Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley in 1982

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He was the first Fox News anchor to moderate a presidential debate. Wallace handled the third showdown between then-candidate Trump and Clinton in 2016, earning praise from pundits on both sides and a tweet of approval from Oprah Winfrey. Wallace landed a permanent place on the presidential debate highlight reel when he got Trump to say he would not commit to accepting the results of the election.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sits for an interview with Chris Wallace
Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down with Chris Wallace in 2018.
(Fox News)

He has a reputation as one of the toughest interrogators in TV news. Even though his network, Fox News, is a favorite of conservative voters and Trump supporters, Wallace has maintained his reputation for being even-handed no matter who he is interviewing.

“I take the line that somebody said from Vince Lombardi, ‘He doesn’t discriminate — he treats us all like dogs,’” he told the Times in 2016. “That’s my view on all politicians.” In a 2018 interview, Wallace asked Russian president Vladimir Putin why so many of his political opponents ended up dead.

Chris Wallace and his wife were guests of George Clooney in Italy.
(Associated Press)

He has Hollywood connections. While many Fox News commentators often express disdain for show business liberals, Wallace and his wife, Lorraine, vacationed at actor George Clooney’s Lake Como compound in northern Italy. “Great food, great wine and great talk,” he told Politico in 2012. “The only thing that ticked me off is that he may be smarter about politics and know more about politics than I do.”

Former FBI director James Comey with Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday"
Former FBI director James Comey with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” in 2019.
(Fox News)

He is a registered Democrat. Many journalists avoid affiliating with a political party. But Wallace is registered as a Democrat in Washington, D.C., as the district’s local government elections are typically decided in the party primaries. Wallace says he has cast votes for both Democratic and Republican candidates in presidential contests.