Veteran Fox News Anchor Cautions Journalists Not to Trade Attacks With Trump

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, known for tough but fair interviews of major figures in the news, said President Trump has engaged in a “direct, sustained assault on a free press” but that journalists should not respond with attacks of their own.

Accepting ICFJ’s Founders Award for Excellence in Journalism, Wallace said journalists have a special role in American democracy and should not be drawn into battles with the people they cover, even in response to a “concerted campaign” to raise doubts about their credibility.

“We are not players in the game. We are umpires. We are observers trying to be objective witnesses to what is going on,” said Wallace, addressing an audience of media leaders and supporters at ICFJ’s annual awards gala Nov. 9.

“President Trump is engaged in the most direct, sustained assault on a free press in our history. Since early in the campaign, he’s done everything he can to delegitimize the media, attacking us institutionally and individually," Wallace said.

The president’s campaign of tweets about “fake news” has had the intended effect of sowing distrust, added Wallace, who quoted polls showing that nearly half of Americans now believe that reporters make up stories about the Trump administration.

But he said journalists should not use the assault as an excuse to cross the line themselves and push back with attacks from their news reports. “As tempting as that may be, I think it’s a big mistake.”

Journalists still have a responsibility to report when the president or anyone else says something untrue or does something irresponsible, said Wallace. But he cautioned against showing bias, as he said some news organizations do. “There’s enough to report about this president that we don’t need to put our thumb on the scales," he added.

ICFJ’s Founders Award is presented to a journalist with a longtime commitment to the highest standards of the profession. Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” has spent more than four decades as a journalist for Fox, ABC and NBC, covering Democratic and Republican presidents, moderating presidential debates and leading groundbreaking investigations.

Watch a tribute video about Wallace. Read his full remarks.