Media Matters founder David Brock is calling on the Commission on Presidential Debates to reconsider the eligibility of Fox News’ Chris Wallace as moderator of the October 19 presidential debate. Brock writes that former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes’ position advising both Rupert Murdoch -- the head of Fox’s parent company -- and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump represents a “glaring conflict of interest” that infringes on the credibility of any Fox News moderator.
Read the full text of his letter to the commission’s co-chairs, as first reported by Politico:
Mr. Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.Mr. Michael D. McCurryCommission on Presidential Debates1200 New Hampshire Ave NW #445 Washington, DC 20036
Dear Co-Chairmen Fahrenkopf and McCurry:
I am writing to request that you reconsider the eligibility of Chris Wallace as a debate moderator as a result of startling new public facts. I urge you to consider these facts and remove Mr. Wallace as the moderator of the third and final presidential debate.
I was concerned to read a September 8 CNN report noting that “in recent weeks, [Roger] Ailes has become one of the most influential voices in the room as [Donald] Trump prepares” for the first presidential debate. According to the CNN report, Ailes and Trump “met in person several times between June 2015 and June 2016” and since late July, Ailes “has taken on a much more active role in Trump’s campaign.”
Earlier this week on Good Morning America, Trump’s campaign manager ducked a question about whether it is appropriate for Ailes to be advising Trump. Simply put, the answer is no. It is a glaring conflict of interest that Roger Ailes, who resigned from Fox News in July, simultaneously provides advice to Donald Trump while serving as a paid adviser to Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch—debate moderator Chris Wallace’s boss.
Also troubling is Chris Wallace’s explicit pronouncement that he doesn't intend to press the candidates to be truthful during the debate he moderates. When Wallace's Fox News colleague Howard Kurtz asked what Wallace would do if either candidate made “assertions that you know to be untrue,” Wallace asserted, “That's not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that.” Ailes and Trump may already be unduly influencing Wallace to favor Trump in the debate. The New York Times' James Poniewozik was correct when he noted that Wallace's stated fact-free approach to debate moderating helps Trump the most. The Times noted that “the fact-checking website PolitiFact has found far more false statements from Mr. Trump than from Mrs. Clinton."
I am disappointed that an organization that prides itself on being non-partisan would make such a selection. I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your selection of Chris Wallace -- or any current Fox News employee -- as a presidential debate moderator until Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch cut ties with Roger Ailes.
Sincerely,David BrockFounder, Media Matters for America