One of the interesting takeaways from Vladimir Putin’s interview with Chris Wallace last night is how several of the reviews I’ve seen give Wallace credit for not being a softball on Putin.
It’s an understandable sentiment. Take this from the Washington Post‘s Aaron Blake.
President Trump refuses to press Vladimir Putin on the questions pretty much every official in American government thinks he should. Luckily, there’s Fox News’s Chris Wallace.
The host on Trump’s favorite cable channel jousted ably with the Russian president — despite the use of interpreters — in an interview airing Monday night. He pressed Putin on the questions Trump has played off, including during Monday’s news conference with Putin in Helsinki. The interview turned heated at points, with Wallace clearly frustrated by Putin’s trademark filibustering and Putin clearly frustrated by a journalist actually challenging him.
In the piece, aptly titled “Fox News’s Chris Wallace gives Putin the grilling Trump won’t“, Blake acknowledges (without explicitly saying) something a lot more in the media should pay attention to: Editorial lean doesn’t make an entire outlet bad.
Here’s Wallace going after Putin on his critics ending up dead.
PUTIN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Well, first of all, all of us have plenty of political rivals. I’m pretty sure President Trump has plenty of political rivals.
WALLACE: But they don’t end up dead.
PUTIN: Well, not always — well, haven’t presidents been killed in the United States? Have you forgotten about — well, has Kennedy been killed in Russia or in the United States? Or Mr. King? What — and what happens to the clashes between police and, well, civil society, and some — several ethnic groups? Well, that’s something that happens on the U.S. soil. All of us have our own set of domestic problems.
But going back to what happened in Russia, yes. We do have crime and we unfortunately — there are some crimes. And to some extent, Russia’s statehood is maturing. And there are some side effects. And we prosecute people responsible for these crimes. But since you’ve mentioned the Skripal case, we would like to get at least some sort of a document, evidence about it. But nobody gives it to us. It’s the same thing as the accusations with meddling into the election process in America. We recently heard that two more people suffered from the same nerve agent that is called Novichok. I have never even heard the last names of these persons. Who are they? What —
WALLACE: Supposedly they picked up the bottle that was used to attack Skripal.
Wallace goes after Putin in a way that Donald Trump won’t (at least vocally – administratively, his office has been increasingly cracking down on the Russians). It’s a good thing, and it’s a reminder that while many feel Fox News as a whole has become the very same state-run media the right accused most other media outlets of being between 2008 and 2016, such is not the case.
The fact of the matter is sweeping generalizations of outlets on the left and right often overlook very good work. Wallace is a great interview. If not him, I think Brett Baier would have done a fantastic job last night. But, it was a good interview and a tough interview that needed to be done, especially after yesterday’s awful display from Trump.
This is an important thing to note because we happen to make these generalizations when things don’t go like we want them to. Is there a noticeable lean to most of the media outlets in existence? Absolutely. Do the vast majority lean left? Absolutely. Does that make them worthless?
No. It does not. American media is not, nor will it ever truly be, state-run. If it were, last night wouldn’t have happened. If it were, Jake Tapper would not have been taking Democrats to task through the Obama years. Other journalists are out there, doing work that does further the cause of journalism. If there were a state-run media, many of those journalists would have ended up much like Putin’s critics have.