UPDATED, with additional details: Chris Wallace made the surprise announcement on Sunday that he is departing Fox News and his longtime gig as moderator of Fox News Sunday and will be joining CNN+, the rival network’s upcoming subscription streaming service.
“After decades in broadcast and cable news, I am excited to explore the world of streaming,” Wallace said in a statement. “I look forward to the new freedom and flexibility streaming affords in interviewing major figures across the news landscape — and finding new ways to tell stories.”
The network said that Wallace will anchor a weekday show that will feature interviews with newsmakers from “politics, business, sports and culture.” The service is scheduled to debut in the first quarter of 2022, as CNN President Jeff Zucker has been trying to lure away talent from other networks to headline its programming. Kasie Hunt left NBC News and MSNBC last summer for the streaming service.
“It is not often that a news organization gets the opportunity to bring someone of Chris Wallace’s caliber on board,” Zucker said in a statement. Wallace’s agreement is said to be for CNN+ and not for shows on the regular network. He said that the network was “thrilled to have Chris on the ground floor of helping us build the next generation of CNN and news.”
Wallace said at the end his Sunday’s show that it would be his last, but did not say what he would be doing next. A source said that his contract was set to expire at the end of the year.
He said on the show that “after 18 years, I have decided to leave Fox. I want to try something new, to go beyond politics to all the things I’m interested in. I’m ready for a new adventure. And I hope you’ll check it out. And so —for the last time, dear friends — that’s it for today. Have a great week. And I hope you’ll keep watching Fox News Sunday.”
A permanent host of Fox News Sunday has not been named. But the move to a rival explains the abrupt nature of Wallace’s departure.
Fox News Media said in a statement, “We are extremely proud of our journalism and the stellar team that Chris Wallace was a part of for 18 years. The legacy of Fox News Sunday will continue with our star journalists, many of whom will rotate in the position until a permanent host is named.”
A source said that Bret Baier, John Roberts, Shannon Bream, Martha MacCallum, Neil Cavuto and Bill Hemmer would be among the names expected to fill in as Fox News Sunday hosts in the interim.
Wallace, 74, has been one of the Fox News’s highest profile and most respected news personalities, known for his hard-hitting interviews with subjects on both sides of the aisle. He also has been a target of President Donald Trump, including after Wallace moderated the first presidential debate last year. That event turned into a chaotic event, as Trump repeatedly interrupted Joe Biden far more than the other way around. Wallace later acknowledged that it went a bit off the rails.
But his interviews with newsmakers often drew praise for his preparation, his direct questions and for his followups, including when Wallace interviewed Trump in July, 2020. He fact-checked the president’s claims, including on things like the Covid mortality rate and Joe Biden’s stance on “defund the police.”
While the network has tried to play up its journalism bonafides, it has leaned even more heavily into opinion programming since Donald Trump left office, shedding nighttime news programs in favor of opinion hosts. Chris Stirewalt, the network’s politics editor who was part of the team that called Arizona for Joe Biden, much to Trump’s furor, was fired. Lachlan Murdoch, CEO of parent Fox Corp., said in March that the job of the network with the Biden administration was to be the “loyal opposition.”
As the network has filled key dayparts with opinion, it also has faced criticism and blowback, particularly when some of its personalties have highlighted conspiracy theories. Tucker Carlson, more than any other figure, has triggered ongoing controversies, most recently over a Fox Nation documentary that advanced the theory that the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was a “false flag” operation. According to NPR, Wallace and Baier objected to the documentary to Fox News Media CEO and Jay Wallace, the president of news. Two conservative contributors to the network, Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg, cited the documentary when they announced their resignations last month.
More recently, Jewish groups called for an apology after Lara Logan, a Fox Nation host, guested on Fox News Primetime and compared Anthony Fauci to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.
In interviews, Wallace has tried to distance himself from the opinion side of the network, telling Deadline in 2020, “They do their job, we do our job.” In his on air remarks on Sunday, he said, “Eighteen years ago, the bosses here at Fox promised me they would never interfere with a guest I booked or a question I asked. And they kept that promise. I have been free to report to the best of my ability, to cover the stories I think are important, to hold our country’s leaders to account.”
Wallace’s announcement was a surprise. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a guest on Sunday’s show, tweeted, “Shocked to hear that Chris Wallace is leaving #FoxNewsSunday. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on the show. Chris challenged everyone fairly and tried to give his viewers the best information to evaluate issues.”
Wallace had signed a multi-year contract in 2017 to remain at the network past the most recent presidential election.
In the 2020 interview with Deadline, Wallace lamented that the news business, along with politics, had become “so tribal.”
He said, “People come up to me, and the thing they say most often is, ‘I love how fair you are. I love that you’re equally tough on both sides.’ And while I like praise, I actually find it kind of depressing. Because when I started in this business 50 years ago, being fair was the basic job requirement to keep you from being fired. And the idea that I stand out now because I’m fair, I think is a kind of sad commentary on the state of journalism.”
Wallace joined Fox News in 2003 after a long tenure at ABC News and, before that, NBC News. He succeeded Tony Snow as moderator of Fox News Sunday, and through the years interviewed lawmakers from both parties, presidents and foreign leaders, including a memorable interview with Vladimir Putin in 2018, when he asked the Russian leader why so many of his critics ended up dead.
Wallace’s is only the latest high-profile figure to depart a prime cable news perch, leaving networks with significant holes to fill in their schedules. On Thursday, Brian Williams signed off as host of MSNBC’s The 11th Hour and ended a nearly 30-year career at NBC News. Last weekend, CNN fired Chris Cuomo after new revelations came to light on how he assisted his brother, Andrew Cuomo, as he faced allegations of sexual harassment.
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