FNC’s Wallace on Maskless Trump Team at Debate: ‘They Broke the Rules’

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Fox News host Chris Wallace had a heated exchange with Trump campaign adviser Steve Cortes about President Donald Trump’s family and advisers not wearing masks at the first presidential debate that Wallace moderated on this week’s broadcast of “Fox News Sunday.”

Cortes said, “The fact that he still got infected shows us that unfortunately, this virus has that kind of power. The president, though, and he’s made this clear, he was unwilling to completely sequester himself, to take no risk, because leaders take risks. And he is the servant of the people as well as the commander-in-chief, and so he said he must be around the people he serves. He took reasonable risks.”

Wallace said, “Let’s talk about reasonable risks because there was the debate on Tuesday night that I moderated. The rules from the Cleveland Clinic could not have been more clear. Everyone — everyone in the audience — was to wear a mask. The president and the former vice president and I were the only ones exempt from that. We’ve got a picture up on the screen. After the First Family came in, they all took off their masks. So did the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. Do they think that the health and safety rules for everybody else do not apply to them?”

Cortes said, “No, that’s not the reality. Everybody was tested before that event, as you well know. Those of us who went first were tested by Cleveland Clinic directly.”

Wallace interrupted, “Steve, it doesn’t matter. Everybody in that room was tested, and the Cleveland Clinic’s regulation was, it didn’t matter, everybody except for the three of us on the stage was to wear a mask, and people from the Cleveland Clinic came over and offered the first family masks, thinking maybe they didn’t have them. They were waved away, and the Commission on Presidential Debates has issued a statement saying, from now on, if you don’t wear a mask, you’re going to be escorted from the hall. So forget this question of being tested beforehand. Everybody was tested beforehand.

Cortes said, “Chris.”

Wallace said, “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?”

Cortes said, “We believe in masks. We also believe in some element of individual choice. People were distanced, and they had been tested.”

Wallace said, “No. Steve, they weren’t distanced, and there were rules, and there was no freedom of choice. They broke the rules.”

Cortes said, “I was there like you were, and they were distanced!”

Wallace said, “No, they broke the rules. Why did they break the rules?”

Cortes shot back, “Chris, the way you’re starting to harangue me now actually reminds me of what you did to the president during that debate on Tuesday night. You were not a neutral moderator then. I don’t mind tough questions. I welcome reasonably tough questions. What I don’t think is OK is for you to become the effective opposition to the president.”

Wallace said, “The president interrupted me and the vice president 145 times. So I object to you saying I harangued the president. I know it’s the talking point.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN