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Chris Wallace announces abrupt departure from Fox News to join CNN streaming service

Chris Wallace of Fox News moderates a 2020 presidential debate. Wallace says he's leaving the network after 18 years and is "ready for a new adventure."
Olivier Douliery
Chris Wallace of Fox News moderates a 2020 presidential debate. Wallace says he's leaving the network after 18 years and is "ready for a new adventure."

One of the most prominent and respected journalists at Fox News has announced his departure, effective immediately.

At the end of Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace said that this was his final episode. "Eighteen years ago the bosses here at Fox promised me they would never interfere with a guest I booked or a question I asked, and they kept that promise," Wallace said. "I have been free to report to the best of my ability, to cover the stories I think are important, to hold our country's leaders to account."

Wallace was the first Fox News anchor to moderate a presidential debate, which he did in 2016 and 2020. Wallace, who was already a respected figure in journalism when he came to Fox News in the early 2000s, had developed a reputation for asking tough questions of both Democrats and Republicans.

In his sign-off Sunday, Wallace said his next adventure would let him "go beyond politics to all the things I'm interested in." He didn't say what exactly that new role would be, but within hours CNN announced he would anchor a weekly interview show on its new subscription streaming service, CNN+.

"After decades in broadcast and cable news, I am excited to explore the world of streaming," Wallace was quoted as saying in a statement released by CNN. "I look forward to the new freedom and flexibility streaming affords in interviewing major figures across the news landscape — and finding new ways to tell stories."

In a statement, Fox News Media said it was "extremely proud of our journalism and the stellar team that Chris Wallace was a part of." The show will continue, the company said, with its prominent journalists rotating in the role of host until a permanent host is named.

On Fox News' weekly program MediaBuzz, the network's media critic Howard Kurtz called Wallace "the most tenacious interviewer in the television business, based on intense preparation and plain old persistence." Wallace's departure is "a major loss for Fox News, no question about it," Kurtz said.

The exit of the 74-year-old host follows a series of clashes over the network's direction. Wallace has occasionally rebuked his colleagues on air over their fawning coverage of then-President Donald Trump. Along with political anchor Bret Baier, he had warned network executives about Tucker Carlson's coverage of the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, which relied on conspiracy theories and outright lies.

Wallace is just the latest high-profile figure to leave Fox News. In November, longtime conservative commentators Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg resigned in protest of what they called a pattern of incendiary and fabricated claims by the network's hosts in support of Trump. Both men cited Carlson's Jan. 6 special as their breaking point.

Fox News reportedly pushed to keep Wallace, whose contract was expiring. Multiple sources inside Fox News tell NPR that his departure was a shock to journalists at the D.C. bureau, where Wallace had been based.

NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik contributed to this report.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").