Veteran anchor Chris Wallace leaving Fox News for CNN

Entertainment

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace directs the first presidential debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio.(Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Veteran anchor Chris Wallace signed off his Fox News Sunday show after 18 years to join CNN, dealing a blow to Fox’s news operation at a time its opinion side has become preeminent.

CNN announced shortly after his show ended that Wallace, who is 74, will join the streaming service CNN+ as an anchor. The service is due to debut sometime next year.

“It is the last time, and I say this with real sadness, we will meet like this,” Wallace said on the program he moderates, “Fox News Sunday.” “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.”

Wallace was a veteran broadcast network newsman, working at both ABC and NBC News, before the late Roger Ailes lured him to Fox with the promise of his own Sunday show. Methodical and never showy — in contrast to his father Mike, the legendary “60 Minutes” reporter — Chris Wallace was known for his methodical preparation and willingness to ask hard questions of all guests.

He was the first Fox News personality to moderate a presidential debate, doing it in 2016 and 2020. The debate he moderated last year went off the rails when then-President Donald Trump repeatedly interrupted Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

Wallace generally co-existed with Fox’s opinion side and infrequently took them on publicly, although in 2017 he said it was “bad form” when opinion hosts bashed the media.

“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 said Sunday. “It’s been a great ride.”

His announcement even took the guests on his show Sunday by surprise; they were not tipped off ahead of time. Fox said a series of rotating guest news anchors will take over for Wallace until a permanent host is named.

Wallace was one of a prominent triumvirate of straight news anchors at Fox who offered a contrast to popular opinion hosts such as Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. Shepard Smith left in 2019 and is now doing a news show at CNBC. Bret Baier remains at Fox as host of a Washington-based evening news program.

There was a report from NPR this fall that Wallace and Baier had objected to Fox executives about some of the more strident opinion programming, particularly Carlson’s documentary on the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, “Patriot Purge,” that aired on Fox’s streaming service. Two Fox contributors, Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, citing that program in choosing to quit the network.

Wallace said that he wanted to “try something new, to go beyond politics to all the things I’m interested in.”

In CNN’s announcement, he said, “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.”

CNN said more details about Wallace’s new role will be forthcoming.

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