After 18 years anchoring Fox News Sunday, celebrated journalist Chris Wallace announced this morning that he’s ditching the network—effective immediately—to join CNN’s streaming subscription service, CNN Plus, when it debuts early next year.
“I am thrilled to join CNN+,” Wallace, who’s been in the news business for 50 years, said in a joint statement with CNN Sunday. “After decades in broadcast and cable news, I am excited to explore the world of streaming. 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.”
Wallace, 74, broke the news to his viewers on the flagship show Sunday, saying it’s been “a great ride” but that he’s “ready for a new adventure.”
That new adventure will be a weekday show where Wallace will interview political, sports, cultural, and business figures.
CNN reports that “a person with knowledge of the matter” tells CNN that although Fox boasted of signing Wallace to a “long-term contract” in 2017, that contract was set to expire this year and Wallace was not interested in renewing it.
Wallace’s new boss, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, said in Sunday’s release, “It is not often that a news organization gets the opportunity to bring someone of Chris Wallace’s caliber on board. He is as fine a journalist as there is in our business. This speaks volumes about our commitment to journalism and CNN+, and we are thrilled to have Chris on the ground floor.”
Wallace—who’s won three Emmys, a Peabody, and the 2020 Poynter Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism, among a host of other honors—is the latest in a string of respected journalists who have fled Fox recently.
A spokesperson for Fox News told Los Angeles 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.”
Although the conservative network had for years at least attempted to maintain some connection to its “Fair & Balanced” slogan, employing actual reporters behind the scenes and allowing a few of them on air to counteract the likes of panicky screamers Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, it grew increasingly unbalanced during the Trump administration. And in the wake of Trump’s humiliating defeat in 2020, that thin veneer has been clawed away practically to extinction.
As Fox and Trump lost the election, the network saw its lowest ratings in 20 years, falling to third place behind MSNBC and CNN. And while Fox was back in the top spot last month, its overall viewership was still down 35 percent compared to this time last year—which should come as little solace for the competition, as CNN has plummeted an astonishing 77 percent since November, 2020, and MSNBC fell by 59 percent.
In its deepening desperation to corral its Trumpiest viewers as upstart right-wing outfits Newsmax and One America News made slight inroads—and OAN made up for its dearth of advertisers with what amounts to a $57 million subsidy from AT&T, which is reportedly 90 percent of its revenue—Fox allowed Carlson to air his propagandist reimagining of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, “Patriot Purge,” last month.
Carlson—who had already won over his kind of people with his die-hard support of the racist-even-for-Tucker-Carlson “replacement theory”—spouted so much nonsense during the three-part series that longtime Fox contributors Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes promptly quit.
“It traffics in all manner of innuendo and conspiracy theories that I think legitimately could lead to violence,” Goldberg told NPR. “That for me, and for Steve, was the last straw.”
Still hanging in there is Fox News Senior VP and Managing Editor Neil Cavuto, who weathered a barrage of death threats from enraged Fox-watchers in October when he suggested that they get vaccinated against COVID.
As for CNN, with Wallace going streaming it remains to be seen who will replace Chris Cuomo since he was terminated for helping his brother, disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, answer charges of sexual misconduct. If Don Lemon ever did have the clout or the gravitas, he might have trashed it by allegedly tipping off convicted fraudster Jussie Smollett that the cops weren’t buying his story. But sources tell Los Angeles that lead Washington anchor Jake Tapper is angling hard for the coveted time slot, and that it just might pay off.
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