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Former Fox News host Shepard Smith heaped praise on one-time network colleague Chris Wallace ahead of the latter’s role as moderator of the first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday.
“I expect Chris Wallace to be prepared,” Smith told “Tonight Show” host Jimmy Fallon on Monday.
“Nobody who has watched Chris Wallace thinks anything other than that he is a very tough, very thoroughly prepared journalist. And he has said repeatedly over the years, to me and publicly, ‘My job is to stay out of the way and be unnoticed as much as possible.’”
Shepard Smith (@thenewsoncnbc) tells Jimmy what to expect with Chris Wallace moderating tomorrow’s #Debate2020 #FallonTonight pic.twitter.com/8RN95BBMI4
— The Tonight Show (@FallonTonight) September 29, 2020
Smith, 56, who worked at Fox News for 23 years as one of the network’s original presenters before leaving last October, added that Wallace won’t “let a falsehood or a misrepresentation or a ‘look over here’ kind of shiny object thing just slide.”
“He will hold them [accountable]. Both of them. He’s not a partisan guy. He’s searching for truth. He’s trying to speak truth to power and trying to get information to the public. That’s what all journalists want to do,” Smith continued.
The Tuesday night debate will take place in Cleveland. The second debate is scheduled for Oct. 15 and will be moderated by C-SPAN politics editor Steve Scully, who interned for Biden when the latter was still a U.S. senator. The third debate is scheduled for Oct. 22 and will be moderated by NBC News reporter Kristen Welker, a frequent critic of the president.
While some have speculated that Wallace may interject himself too much, he has said he wants to remain as “invisible as possible” so that he’s not going to become the story in a debate that analysts estimate will be seen by at least 80 million people.
“I’m trying to get them to engage … to focus on the key issues … to give people at home a sense of why they want to vote for one versus the other,” Wallace has said recently. “If I’ve done my job right, at the end of the night, people will say, ‘That was a great debate, who was the moderator?’”
As for Smith, he is slated to return to the cable airwaves as host of a new nightly show Wednesday on CNBC that will focus on topics of general interest, according to reports.
“It’s not an easy thing to start from scratch,” Smith said in comments published by the Daily Mail. “here’s no muscle memory at CNBC in terms of doing a general newscast. We’re creating all of that. And that’s fun. It was fun creating in 1996, and it’s fun creating in 2020.”
He added that unlike at Fox, his CNBC program won’t feature punditry or opinions but will simply present unbiased information.
“We’re going to come out and do just the news,” he said. “We’re not planning to do any analysis in our news hour. We’re going to have journalists, reporters, sound, and video. We’re going to have newsmakers and experts … but no pundits. We’re going to leave the opinion to others. It’s exactly what I’ve been wanting to do. It’s what I’ve been working at for 30 years.”
His new network has been extremely accommodating. The Daily Mail reports that CNBC built him a new studio at its New Jersey headquarters, adding that three crews worked 24 hours a day over eight weeks to get it finished.
Prior to his departure from Fox News, Smith had become vehemently anti-Trump, a position that put him at odds with some of the network’s top talent, including Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
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