What Chris Wallace does next

15 December 2021

3:02 AM

15 December 2021

3:02 AM

Chris Wallace stunned the world of news media this weekend by announcing his resignation from Fox News and its staple show, Fox News Sunday. What he did next shocked some further and didn’t surprise others at all: he joined CNN+, a new streaming service coming next year from Jeff Zucker’s dramatic infotainment network.

The move is hardly a bombshell given Wallace’s recent run-ins with the MAGA faithful, both on and off the network. It comes on the heels of a contentious election where Wallace lost control in the first presidential debate. Some see Wallace’s departure as an indictment of the direction in which Fox News is heading editorially. Others view it as an obvious jump for someone who styles themselves as a dedicated news man, but is ultimately just the latest in a long line of mainstream-media Democrat friendly propagandists.

I would submit that Wallace leaving means neither of those things — at least not yet. It’s what Wallace does at CNN and how he follows Jeff Zucker’s editorial outlook that actually matters.

Wallace has a knack for angering members of both parties and tribes, and that’s what someone in his position should be doing. But like other “straight news” personalities, that kind of reputation can crumble shortly after coming under the steer of Zucker at CNN, whose outlook involves turning cable news into Wrestlemania, and giving each of his stars a unique role and personality to play. This approach has its roots in Zucker’s history in reality television, with none other than Donald Trump at NBC.

If Wallace soon sheds the persona he’s crafted for decades, in order to become another partisan hitman against his former colleagues and network, it will simply prove his worst critics right. He should not retread the footsteps of Jim Acosta, Jake Tapper and all the others who attempted to fashion careers as straight news journalists, only to find themselves deployed as blunt weapons to be used against Fox News and Republican politicians.

While it seems Wallace had editorial disagreements with Fox, in particular over the network’s airing of Tucker Carlson’s documentary on the January 6 Capitol riot, he also joins a network experiencing a jolting shift in toxicity, with the recent firing of star anchor Chris Cuomo, who was given a very long leash to use his position of influence to help dig up information the women accusing his brother, then-New York governor Andrew Cuomo, of sexual harassment.

Just last week, a CNN producer, who also worked with Chris Cuomo, was arrested by the FBI on charges of sexual abuse of minors, and another prime time star, Don Lemon, finds themselves dealing with sexual harassment allegations. This kind of culture seems to follow Jeff Zucker, who presided over NBC when its top star was “pussy grabber” Donald Trump and its morning anchor was Matt Lauer.

If Wallace uses his airtime to trash his former employer on a regular basis, he would certainly lose the moral high ground. He would also prove that, for the right paycheck, he will do and say whatever Jeff Zucker tells him to, which is often how it goes for news personalities at CNN.

But if Wallace is able to maintain his current reputation, he may be able to help CNN forge a new identity, beyond being a band of Fox News screechers on social media. Given the track record of other recent CNN hires, there is little cause for optimism.

The post What Chris Wallace does next appeared first on The Spectator World.

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