Fox News Sunday vs. Clinton Aftermath: Wallace 'Stunned' By Outburst

The warring camps of Fox News and Team Clinton spoke out in the Washington Post on Monday morning. Howard Kurtz reported:

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said that he was stunned when Bill Clinton accused him of a "conservative hit job" after he challenged the former president on his record in fighting terrorism.

"I thought it was a fair, balanced and not especially inflammatory question," Wallace said yesterday in recounting his "Fox News Sunday" sit-down with Clinton. "I even said, 'I know hindsight is 20/20.' But he went off. And once he went off, there was no bringing him back. He wanted to talk about it in detail. He wanted to conjure up right-wingers and conservative hit jobs and a theory involving Rupert Murdoch that I still don't understand."

"We're fully aware of Fox News's and Chris Wallace's agenda, and President Clinton came in prepared to respond to any attack on his record," said Jay Carson, his spokesman. "When Wallace questioned his record on terrorism, he responded forcefully, as any Democrat would or should."

Kurtz also dealt with the Clinton camp's contention that Wallace asked questions of Clinton than he failed to ask the Bush side:

In the interview, in which Clinton also accused Wallace of having a "little smirk" on his face, the host said he had planned to spend half the allotted 15 minutes on the Global Initiative and that "I didn't think this was going to set you off on such a tear."

"It set me off on such a tear because you didn't formulate it in an honest way and you people ask me questions you don't ask the other side," Clinton said.

"Sir, that is not true," Wallace replied.

Asked about Clinton's complaint, a Fox spokeswoman pointed to Wallace's interview two weeks ago with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Wallace pressed her about the lack of prewar ties between Osama bin Laden and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but he did not ask about U.S. efforts against bin Laden before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Carson noted that the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole was officially linked to al-Qaeda after Bush took office.

"I don't think I was fanning the flames here," Wallace said. "It was all generated from within him."

Clinton has on occasion scolded other interviewers, most notably in a 2004 sitdown with ABC's Peter Jennings, who drew this response after alluding to Clinton's personal misconduct: "You don't want to go here, Peter. . . . Not after what you people did and the way you, your network, what you did with Kenneth Starr. The way your people repeated every little sleazy thing he leaked."

Kurtz did not mention that Wallace was the only interviewer to ask these questions of Clinton, which is strange considering that the Clinton camp was so vocal in opposing ABC's "Path to 9/11" docudrama.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis