An interview between Fox News host Chris Wallace and Steve Cortes, a senior adviser for the Trump campaign, went off the rails on Sunday as the two got into a heated exchange over the first family not wearing masks while attending last week’s debate.
Wallace, who moderated the debate last Tuesday, confronted Cortes about why the first family did not wear masks during it, saying, “Do they think that the health and safety rules for everybody else do not apply to them?”
“Everybody was tested before that event, as you well know,” Cortes replied. “Those of us who went first were tested by Cleveland Clinic directly. Everybody who gets on Air Force One for any trip on Air Force One is tested before they get on.”
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This did not sit well with Wallace, who visibly started to lose his temper:
“It doesn’t matter. Everybody that was in that room was tested. Steve, everybody that was in that room was tested and the Cleveland Clinic’s regulation was it didn’t matter.
Everybody except for the three of us on the stage was to wear a mask and people from the Cleveland Clinic came over and offered the first family masks thinking maybe they didn’t have them. They were waved away and the commission on presidential debates has issued a statement saying from now on if you don’t wear a mask, you’re going to be escorted from the hall.
“Everybody was tested beforehand – no, I’m going to finish my question. Everybody was told to wear a mask. Why did the first family and the chief of staff feel that the rules for everybody else didn’t apply to them?”
Cortes, however, stood his ground.
“We believe in masks that masks are very useful, the president has worn them on many occasions, including visiting the hospital where he is now a patient, when he was visiting as commander in chief as a guest to visit soldiers there he wore a mask,” he said. “We also believe in some element of individual choice, people were distanced and they had been tested.”
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Wallace continued to go after the Trump family, claiming that they did not practice social distancing and that “they broke the rules” set by the Cleveland Clinic. That’s when Cortes hit Wallace right where it hurts by bringing up the debate itself.
“Chris, the way you’re starting to harangue me now actually reminds me of what you did to the president during the debate on Tuesday night,” Cortes said, adding that the president “had to debate not just Joe Biden, but you as well.”
“You were not a neutral moderator then,” he added. Critics on all sides of the political spectrum have widely panned Wallace’s performance as moderator.
“People can make reasonable decisions for themselves,” the campaign advisor said.
A clearly frustrated Wallace replied, “Let me simply say the president interrupted me and the vice president 145 times, so I object to saying I harangued the president. I know it’s the talking point.”