Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who sat within 12 feet of President Trump while moderating Tuesday’s presidential debate in Cleveland, has some stark advice for his network’s viewers: “Wear the damn mask.”
Appearing Friday on “Fox & Friends” and other Fox News programs, Mr. Wallace repeatedly emphasized the threat of the coronavirus, pointed out the lack of qualifications of one of Mr. Trump’s top medical advisers, and said he was acutely aware of his potential exposure after the president had tested positive for the virus.
“Follow the science,” Mr. Wallace said. “If I could say one thing to all of the people out there watching: Forget the politics. This is a public safety health issue.”
The anchor, who has expressed regret about the chaotic nature of Tuesday’s debate, said he planned to take a coronavirus test on Monday on the advice of his doctors, who said that any infection could take several days to generate a positive result.
Several Fox News opinion hosts have accused much of the national news media of overstating the dangers of the virus, while defending Mr. Trump’s prerogative to hold large rallies on the campaign trail against the advice of health experts. One frequent Fox News guest who downplayed the risks, Dr. Scott Atlas, has since become a top pandemic adviser to the president.
On Friday, Mr. Wallace was unequivocal in warning against Dr. Atlas’s advice — even as his colleague, the Fox News anchor Sandra Smith, teased an exclusive interview with Dr. Atlas in which the doctor said he expected Mr. Trump would make a full recovery and return to the campaign trail.
“I’m going to say something and, folks, I’m just trying to give you the truth,” Mr. Wallace said. “Dr. Scott Atlas is not an epidemiologist, is not an infectious disease expert — he has no training in this area at all. There are a number of top people on the president’s coronavirus task force who have had grave concerns about Scott Atlas and his scientific bona fides.”
“I know I’m going to get a lot of pushback from this,” Mr. Wallace continued, adding: “Listen to people like Anthony Fauci, listen to people like Deborah Birx, who have been largely cut off. Listen to the independent people who do not have a political ax to grind, and I frankly don’t think Scott Atlas is one of those people.”
Recounting his experience at Tuesday’s debate, Mr. Wallace told viewers that members of Mr. Trump’s family removed their masks after entering the debate hall in violation of the rules of the Cleveland Clinic, which had been contracted to oversee the health and safety protocols for the event. “A health person from the Cleveland Clinic came up to the first family when they were seated and offered them masks in case they didn’t have them, and they were waved away,” the anchor recalled.
Mr. Wallace — who said his wife and children, who also attended, wore masks in the hall — estimated that he was sitting “10 or 12 feet” from Mr. Trump and that the candidates were roughly eight feet apart onstage. “I never got any closer to him than what you saw on TV,” he said, noting that Mr. Trump “had decided there would be no opening handshake — and thank God for that!”
In a later appearance on Friday, Mr. Wallace pushed back when a Fox News panelist, Melissa Francis, asked him how the president’s positive test might affect Mr. Biden’s campaigning strategy.
“That’s not the story today,” Mr. Wallace said, adding: “To me the takeaway of this whole thing is to follow the science.”