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New York Times: Chris Wallace Debate Role a ‘Bright Spot in a Dark Year for Fox’

The New York Times noted that Chris Wallace’s moderation of Wednesday night’s Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate in Las Vegas marks “a bright spot in a dark year for Fox.”

The outlet reported:

And on Wednesday here in Las Vegas, Fox News will celebrate a milestone for a channel that has long scrabbled for journalistic legitimacy: Its Sunday anchor, Chris Wallace, is set to moderate the final presidential debate, the first Fox journalist to take charge of a general election face-off.

It would be the most consequential night of Fox News’s year — if the network had not just endured the most traumatic period in its two-decade history.

Fox News is still ranked first this year for its biggest audience since it started broadcasting in 1996, back when the notion of a Fox-affiliated debate moderator would have been dismissed as ridiculous.

Still, the network must also confront a changing political reality. Upstart outlets like Breitbart News have lured sections of its traditional Republican audience, particularly supporters of Mr. Trump, who has openly warred with Ms. Kelly and occasionally criticized Fox’s news coverage, even as Mr. Trump routinely appears with Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Hannity.

The Times noted the feud between Sean Hannity and Megyn Kelly:

Mr. Hannity’s full-throated embrace of Mr. Trump has been at the root of some internal dust-ups, including the tiff with Ms. Kelly. (The anchors later posted a photograph of themselves smiling together, with the caption, “It’s complicated.”) Asked about balancing news coverage with Mr. Hannity’s advocacy, Jay Wallace offered a diplomatic reply: “It is nuanced.”

Kelly is the subject of an October 11 Vanity Fair profile, which described her as a “pivotal figure in the Ailes ouster.” Kelly is re-negotiating her contract, which reportedly pays her $10 million per year and is less than Bill O’Reilly’s salary:

Kelly and the younger Murdochs have been close for years. They are all in their early-to-mid-40s, and can espouse views that can be out of lockstep with the network’s hard-right narrative. Kelly, who spoke to lawyers from Paul, Weiss during their investigation, was indeed a pivotal figure in the Ailes ouster. And throughout it all, according to a person familiar with the matter, Kelly spoke multiple times with Murdoch family members. “Lachlan was the one who talked to her throughout this entire ordeal,” this person told me earlier this summer. “James loves Megyn,” this person continued. “He believes she’s a big part of the future of this channel.” According to a person close to Kelly, she has dined at the younger Murdoch’s homes twice in the past several months.

Wallace and Kelly co-moderated the raucous first Republican primary debate, which spawned the “Only Rosie O’Donnell” defense, but only Hannity became the star of a Donald Trump one-liner in the general election debate, when Trump told reporters to call Hannity to learn about his Iraq War opposition.

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