Or was it?
We’ll have to wait for reporting to know why Wallace is throwing in the towel but this has the same vibe as Shepard Smith’s abrupt resignation from Fox in 2019.
Fox News’ Chris Wallace: “After 18 years, I have decided to leave Fox. I want to try something new, to go beyond politics, to all of the things I’m interested in.” pic.twitter.com/vgMF8Ktdnr
— The Recount (@therecount) December 12, 2021
“How long can Chris Wallace hang on?” I wrote on the day Shep bailed, speculating that news side of Fox was fed up with the MAGA propaganda in primetime. Now we know.
Of note: This wasn’t a case of Wallace quitting in the middle of his contract. His contract was up and apparently he decided not to re-sign.
Chris Wallace signed a four-year deal with Fox back in 2017. His contract was expiring this year, and he decided to leave. “Fox News Sunday” will have rotating hosts for the time being.
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 12, 2021
It could be that what he says in the clip is true, that he was tired of covering politics — an increasingly stupid and ugly element of American life — and wanted to do something more enjoyable. But it’s impossible not to wonder if Wallace is following the lead of Jonah Goldberg and Steve Hayes, both of whom were longtime contributors at Fox and who quit in protest a few weeks ago over Tucker Carlson’s “Patriot Purge” special. According to NPR, they weren’t the only talent in-house who objected to Fox giving Tucker a platform for “a collection of incoherent conspiracy-mongering, riddled with factual inaccuracies, half-truths, deceptive imagery, and damning omissions,” as Goldberg and Hayes described it. Among the other Fox employees who complained: Chris Wallace.
According to five people with direct knowledge, the resignations reflect larger tumult within Fox News over Carlson’s series Patriot Purge and his increasingly strident stances, and over the network’s willingness to let its opinion stars make false, paranoid claims against President Biden, his administration and his supporters.
Veteran figures on Fox’s news side, including political anchors Baier and Chris Wallace, shared their objections with Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott and its president of news, Jay Wallace. Those objections rose to Lachlan Murdoch, the chairman and CEO of the network’s parent company, Fox Corp.
Maybe “Patriot Purge” was the final straw for Wallace. NPR ably described Fox’s shift away from news and towards Trumpier programming this past year, something that obviously didn’t make the reporters on staff happy:
Fox News also jettisoned the leaders of its political desk, laid off a bunch of researchers and installed a new opinion hour at 7 p.m., shifting news anchor Martha MacCallum from that time to a less visible midafternoon slot. The news anchor at 11 p.m., Shannon Bream, was pushed back to midnight in favor of Greg Gutfeld’s opinion-driven comedy show. All these moves tilted the channel to even more Trump-friendly content, even as its news programs gently tried to correct the record on the 2020 elections and the siege.
Goldberg himself finds the timing of Wallace’s announcement … interesting:
Wow. Suffice it to say, I don’t think this was the plan a month ago. https://t.co/25rWbCTFl1
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahDispatch) December 12, 2021
If “Patriot Purge” was the straw that broke the camel’s back, it wouldn’t be the first time a hard news journalist quit the network apparently due partly to disgust with Carlson. Just two weeks before Shep Smith resigned, he and Tucker began trading jabs on air after one of Carlson’s guests, Joe diGenova, had mocked one of Shep’s guests, Andrew Napolitano, as a “fool.” It appeared that Smith had had his fill of being the “respectable” news fig leaf for a primetime bloc which most journalists don’t find respectable. Maybe Wallace had his fill after “Patriot Purge” too.
Or maybe he just got a better offer?
A person familiar with the matter suggested Wallace may be jumping to CNN Plus, the new streaming-video service slated to launch early next year. Spokespersons for CNN could not be recached for immediate comment. Fox News last announced a contract extension for Wallace in 2017, and his current agreement with Fox News is believed to have come to an end.
It’s probably a combination. CNN might have made him a sweet deal to be the well-known face of its new venture and Wallace couldn’t say no given his dissatisfaction with the drift at Fox. Ironically, his decision to leave means the network’s identity will skew that much more towards opinion and away from news. But everyone has their limit. Evidently, Wallace reached his.
Update: There’s no word on a permanent host for “Fox News Sunday,” another sign that the network might not have had much advance warning from Wallace that he wouldn’t re-sign.
More: Wallace is done – now. He had come to close of his four-year contract; he will be replaced on rotating basis by prominent former colleagues including Bret Baier, John Roberts, Shannon Bream, Martha MacCallum, Neil Cavuto, Dana Perino & Bill Hemmer.
— David Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) December 12, 2021
Update: It’s official.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) December 12, 2021
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