Fox News anchor Chris Wallace cautioned his colleagues and the network’s viewers Sunday that President Trump’s latest attack on the media had gone too far.
âLook, we’re big boys. We criticize presidents. They want to criticize us back, that’s fine,â Wallace said Sunday morning on âFox & Friends.â âBut when he said that the fake news media is not my enemy, it’s the enemy of the American people, I believe that crosses an important line.â
The âFox & Friendsâ anchors had shown a clip of Trump recounting that past presidents, including Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, had fought with the press. They then asked Wallace whether Trump’s fraught relationship with the media was a big deal.
In response, Wallace told his colleagues that Jefferson had also once written the following: âAnd were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.â
Context was important, Wallace said. All presidents fight with the media, but Trump had taken it a step further in making them out to be âthe enemy,â he added.
âYes, presidents have always had â and politicians have always had âÂ problems with the press. They want good press. The press doesn’t always give it to them,â Wallace said. âBut what Jefferson [was saying] is, despite all of our disputes, that to the functioning of a free and fair democracy, you must have an independent press.â
Trump’s contentious relationship with the press has again been in the spotlight in recent days after the president repeatedly attacked the media as âfake newsâ in several tweets. In one widely shared tweet on Friday, Trump said the media was ânot my enemyâ but âthe enemy of the American People!â
In it, Trump tagged the New York Times, CNN and the broadcastÂ news networks NBC, ABC and CBS. He did not mention Fox News, which has usually been exempted from his anger toward the media â a fact that Wallace acknowledged Sunday.
âWe can take criticism, but to say we’re the enemy of the American people, it really crosses an important line,â Wallace said.
On âFox & Friends,â host Pete Hegseth countered that perhaps Trump was âtaking on the hidden biasâ of news outlets that âtell you they’re unbiased.â
âIs there something there?â Hegseth asked Wallace. âItâs not about the independent press; itâs about the bias of the press.â
Wallace replied: âI think there’s absolutely something there, and if he had said that, you wouldnât have heard a peep out of me. Lord knows, Barack Obama criticized Fox News. If Donald Trump wants to criticize the New York Times, thatâs fine. But itâs different from saying that we are an enemy of the American people. Thatâs a different thing.â
Wallace finished with a word of warning to those watchingÂ who might agree with Trump because he happened to be a president who shared their views.
âAnd I know there are a lot of [Fox News] listeners out there who are going to reflexively take Donald Trumpâs side on this,â he added. âItâs a different thing when itâs a president â because if itâs a president you like trying to talk about the press being the enemy of the people, then itâs going to be a president you donât like saying the same thing. And thatâs very dangerous.â
Wallace is the host of âFox News Sundayâ and was the moderator of the third presidential debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile,Â White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also appeared on âFox News Sunday,â where he and Wallace sparred over the president’s words.
Priebus defended Trump by saying that he was not talking about all news but about âcertain things that are happening in the news that just arenât honest.â
Wallace pressed Priebus and argued that the president was not referring to individual stories.
âYou donât get to tell us what to do any more than Barack Obama did,â Wallace said after continued arguments with Priebus. âBarack Obama whined about Fox News all the time, but I got to say, he never said that we were an enemy of the people.â
Wallace is not the only high-profile figureÂ to disagree withÂ Trump’s declaration about the media. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he did not have any issues with the press and did not see the media as the enemy.
In an interview on NBC’s âMeet the Pressâ that aired Sunday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) saidÂ making moves to shut down a free press was âhow dictators get started.â
âIn other words, a consolidation of power,â McCain told âMeet the Pressâ host Chuck ToddÂ from Munich. âWhen you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.â
The 80-year-old senatorÂ told Todd that a free press was central to a functional democracy, even if news organizations’ stories challenged those being held accountable.
âI hate the press. I hate you, especially,â he said to Todd, who laughed. âBut the fact is, we need you. We need a free press. We must have it. It’s vital.â
âIf you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and, many times, adversarial press,â McCain added. âAnd without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started.â
In the backlash to Trump’s tweet, #NotTheEnemy began trending, with people sharing stories about journalists who hadÂ dedicated their lives to â and, in some instances, paid the ultimate price for â reporting the news.