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Chris Wallace leaves Fox News for CNN streaming service

ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:

Big news in the media world today.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

CHRIS WALLACE: After 18 years, this is my final "Fox News Sunday."

FLORIDO: Fox News anchor Chris Wallace made that surprise announcement this morning during Fox News' signature weekend political show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY")

WALLACE: I want to try something new, to go beyond politics to all the things I'm interested in.

FLORIDO: Wallace's announcement follows reports that he had voiced his objections to Fox News brass over some of the network's political coverage, including, as NPR first reported last month, coverage of the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik joins us now to tell us more.

David, welcome.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, Adrian. How are you?

FLORIDO: Fine, thank you. I understand that Chris Wallace is leaving Fox for CNN. Is that right? Tell us more about the move and what he'll be doing there.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, CNN has this planned streaming service that's supposed to debut sometime in - early on in 2022. CNN has revealed, after the announcement that you just played the clip from, that Wallace will be hosting a weekday show over there. But, you know, it's a venture into the unknown. CNN's a little bit late to the streaming game and yet can pay big numbers to get a big name like Chris Wallace, who's had such a long and storied career in broadcast journalism, to help try to shore it up.

FLORIDO: Tell us a bit more about Wallace's background. He moved to Fox News 18 years ago, already having established himself as a journalist with considerable stature at other networks, right? What was his impact at Fox?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, Chris Wallace is one of a small number of folks who came in with the independent stature to Fox prior to his time at the network time at - perhaps most notably at NBC, a White House correspondent. He hosted "Meet The Press." And on Fox, he represented somebody they could always point to. They used him as a shield - the network brass often - somebody they could point to who would ask tough questions of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives alike, and who seemed to just be asking the tough questions that needed to be posed to hold the powerful accountable.

FLORIDO: Well, we mentioned that his announcement today follows reports that he had objected to some of Fox News's recent political coverage. What can you tell us about that?

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah. Well, you could occasionally see flares of this on the air, where he might take to task people like the hosts of "Fox & Friends" - that is Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade - for some of their coverage of President Obama or some of their embrace of President Trump and tried to distinguish, you know, conspiracy theories from hard facts and reported knowledge. But you also began to see him internally raise objections, most recently with Bret Baier, the political anchor for Fox, really throwing down the gauntlet on the - this three-part documentary series done by Tucker Carlson promoting lies and conspiracy theories about the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. And they said, you know, this can't be allowed. You guys have to rein him in.

One person with knowledge of those talks said to me, you know, there has to be some signs that things will change, or there will be consequences. There were no signs that things would change. And, you know, just a few weeks later, we're seeing one of those consequences, Chris Wallace announcing he's going to, you know, head across the way over to CNN.

FLORIDO: So how significant is his departure for Fox News right now?

FOLKENFLIK: I think you'd have to acknowledge that comings and goings and transitions are part of the - to be expected at major television news operations. But I think that this is a signal. And it's being taken that way, I can tell you, to people inside Fox, who were taken by surprise. It surprised the Washington bureau. It surprised people even in the control room running Chris Wallace's show this morning that there isn't really going to be a place where somebody of stature can independently walk a different line that raises uncomfortable questions for those who want to believe wrongly that former President Trump was somehow denied an election in 2020. It's saying that for reporters who want to walk the straight and narrow at Fox, it's going to be a very lonely time indeed. And I think we've got to see how Fox reacts to it, who they hire, and how they handle themselves. But the message couldn't be clearer.

FLORIDO: That was NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. David, thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.