Speaking at a Newseum event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Fox News host Chris Wallace said President Trump’s continued attacks against the media amounted to the most “direct, sustained assault on the freedom of the press” in U.S. history.
Wallace accused Trump of doing “everything he can to undercut the media, to try and delegitimize us,” Wallace said at a Newseum event in Washington, D.C., honoring the museum’s legacy ahead of its shuttering at the end of the year.
“I think his purpose is clear: to raise doubts when we report critically about him and his administration that we can be trusted. Back in 2017, he tweeted something that said far more about him than it did about us: ‘The fake news media is not my enemy. It is the enemy of the American people.’”
During his time as president, Trump has repeatedly railed against members of the press, often referring to them as “enemies of the people” and “fake news.”
Wallace went on to note that Trump’s sustained attacks have “done some damage,” pointing to a Freedom Forum Institute poll that found that 29 percent of Americans say the First Amendment goes “too far.”
The conservative news anchor also invoked William McRaven, the retired Navy admiral who oversaw the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden and who called Trump’s anti-media sentiment the “greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”
“I’ve got to say I was a little surprised by that. This is a guy who fought the Soviet Union. This is an admiral who fought Islamic terrorism,” Wallace said. “But when I asked Bill about this, this was his response: ‘Those threats brought us together… The president and I swore an oath to the Constitution. When the president says the media is the enemy of the people, to me that undermines the Constitution. So I do think it is a tremendous threat to our democracy.'”
The comments served as a theme of Wallace’s address, which spanned the Fox News anchor’s career and the current state of political journalism. Wallace, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” has gained a reputation as an aggressive questioner of guests across the political spectrum, including Trump administration officials like aide Stephen Miller, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Wallace has been the frequent target of the president’s ire in recent months over his coverage of the House impeachment inquiry. In November, the president ripped Wallace as “nasty” and “obnoxious” after he disputed comments House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) made about the impeachment hearings.
Wallace addressed those comments for the first time Thursday, quipping that “afterwards, one of my sons said, ‘Nasty? No. Obnoxious? Well.'”
The broadcaster warned that journalists shouldn’t let Trump’s “constant bashing of the media as a rationale, as an excuse to cross the line themselves.” He also urged against reporters allowing their “animus” of the president to be plain to see in their reporting.