Fox News anchor Chris Wallace recalled the moment when he saw Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump appearing by phone on a rival Sunday political television show.
“I was stunned,” Wallace told Business Insider in an interview.
Wallace is the longtime host of “Fox News Sunday,” which is celebrating its 20th anniversary on air.
Wallace has refused to allow Trump to call in to the show. He told Business Insider that the breach of protocol on other networks’ Sunday shows was surprising and unprecedented.
“I mean, here’s a guy who is running for President of the United States. And Sunday shows have a unique place in the television landscape,” said Wallace, who has hosted the Sunday show since 2003. “They’re supposed to be the place that viewers turn for in-depth, serious, probing interviews, and some of the other shows were letting him call in.”
The “Fox News Sunday” host said the decision to not let Trump call in was never even seriously discussed.
“There were no discussions. There were no meetings. It was just me,” Wallace said.
His reasoning was also simple: Wallace told Business Insider that having guests appear on camera allows the host to more fully evaluate the subject.
“You didn’t know if he was in his pajamas. You didn’t know if he was reading off talking points. Part of a tough interview is to see how somebody reacts when you ask that probing question — whether they blink, whether they stutter or stammer,” Wallace said. “And you didn’t get any of those non-verbal insights because he was talking on a phone.”
Indeed, many anchors see Trump’s habit of calling into shows rather than appearing on camera as a tactical move on the frontrunner’s part.
Last year, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo said Trump’s decision to call in to shows rather than appear on camera was a deliberate strategy.
“It’s easy for him to over-talk the questioner,” Cuomo told The Washington Post in September.
Since Wallace’s decision not to allow Trump phone into the show, others have since reevaluated their call-in policy. Earlier this year, for instance, NBC’s “Meet The Press” announced that it will no longer hold phone-based interviews with Trump.