Fox News’ anchor Chris Wallace and an adviser to the Trump reelection campaign got into a tense exchange Sunday over the president’s family sitting in the first row at Tuesday’s presidential debate without wearing masks.
Wallace, who moderated the debate in Cleveland that turned into a free-wheeling 90 minutes of insults and interruptions between President Trump and Joe Biden, asked Steve Cortes why Trump’s family flouted the rules set up by the Cleveland Clinic — to which Cortes replied that they had already been tested for COVID-19.
“Do they think that the health and safety rules for everybody else do not apply to them?” he questioned on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Everybody was tested before that event, as you well know,” Cortes replied.
“It doesn’t matter. Everybody that was in that room was tested and the Cleveland Clinic’s regulation was that it didn’t matter,” said Wallace, adding that only he, the president and Biden were exempt from the mask-wearing regulations.
Trump is receiving treatment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday.
Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has tested negative.
Wallace pointed out images showing the Trump family — Eric, Donald Jr., Ivanka, Tiffany and the first lady — not wearing facial coverings, along with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
He added that officials from the Cleveland Clinic approached the family and offered to give them masks, but were waved away.
“So forget this question of being tested beforehand. Everybody was tested beforehand. That — no, I’m going to finish my question — everybody was told to wear a mask, why did the first family and the chief of staff feel that the rules for everybody else didn’t apply to them?” Wallace pressed.
“Chris, we believe the masks are very useful. The president has worn them on many occasions,” Cortes said.
“We also believe in some element of individual choice. People were distanced, and they had been tested, both of those things were true,” he said.
But Wallace immediately shot back.
“They weren’t distanced and there were rules and there was no freedom of choice. They broke the rules, why did they break the rules?” the Fox News host pressed.
After a few more moments of back-and-forth between the two, Cortes brought up Wallace’s moderating duties at the debate.
“The way you’re starting to harangue me now actually reminds me of what you did to the president. He had to debate not just Joe Biden but you as well. You were not a neutral moderator then,” Cortes said before going on to call Wallace the “effective opposition to the president.”
“People can make reasonable decisions for themselves,” Cortes said.
“No, actually they can’t, they’re the rules and they’ll be kicked out next time,” Wallace countered. “The president interrupted me and the vice president 145 times, so I object to saying I harangued the president, I know it’s the talking point.”
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