Fox News Host Chris Wallace Says 'Spinning' by Trump Defenders Is 'Astonishing' and 'Deeply Misleading'

Protesters Demand Impeachment Over Sexual Assault Allegations
People protest outside of the Fox News Channel headquarters to demand the resignation of President Donald Trump after accusations of sexual assault have re-surfaced against him on December 14, 2017, in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Fox News Friday afternoon, host Chris Wallace came to the Ukraine whistleblower's defense in an on-air clash with his colleague Sandra Smith.

Smith asked Wallace whether he thought the released whistleblower complaint changes anything as they wrapped up a week that saw Democrats launch formal impeachment inquiries against President Donald Trump.

"Oh, I think it's changed quite a lot, Sandra," the Fox News Sunday host replied. "And the spinning that has been done by the president's defenders over the last 24 hours since this very damaging whistleblower complaint came out—the spinning is not surprising—but it is astonishing, and I think deeply misleading."

Wallace went on to highlight the consistency between the complaint and the transcript notes of Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, despite earlier claims by Republican lawmakers and Fox News. Less than a day ago, Fox News released an article citing "several apparent inconsistencies" in the whistleblower's testimony, like the fact that the whistleblower's sources didn't file a complaint themselves.

"Let's look at what the whistleblower says," Wallace said to Smith.

The whistleblower said there was a troubling call in which the president asked Zelensky to investigate misdoings by Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Wallace pointed out. "We now have a rough transcript of that call, and that's exactly what happened," he said.

The whistleblower, back in August, pointed out that the administration held up aid to Ukraine, he continued. "It turns out that it was the case," Wallace said.

Wallace's final point centered on questionable privileges awarded to Trump's personal attorney Rudy Guiliani, who also communicated with Ukrainian leadership despite not having an official role in the White House.

"The whistleblower also said that Rudy Giuliani had a number of contacts with Ukrainian officials," acting as his own, in effect, state department, said Wallace, "and that also turns out to be true."

Wallace also came out against the recent defamation of the whistleblower by the Trump administration. Thursday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times acquired audio of the president slamming the intelligence officer as "almost a spy," alluding to violent punishment for "spies and treason."

But the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, said in Thursday's congressional hearing that "the whistleblower exactly followed the procedure that a whistleblower is supposed to follow," Wallace said.

He or she went to the CIA general counsel and raised these concerns, who found the concerns credible. Then the whistleblower went to the intelligence community inspector general with a formal complaint. The inspector general also found it credible, Wallace said.

"Remember the whistleblower actions were in August. We're now at the end of September, and none of this was leaked by anybody, for all the president's talk about leaking," Wallace said. "The whole point of these laws are to allow people who are concerned about what's going on in the government to be able to report it."

Smith interjected: "But there are major inconsistencies, are there not Chris, with the whistleblower complaint and the actual transcript of that phone call?"

Echoing the talking points White House officials accidentally sent to Democratic lawmakers, Smith continued that the complaint alleges a quid pro quo, the exchange of something for value.

Wallace interrupted in turn. "You don't think that dirt on Joe Biden and Joe Biden's son is a thing of value?" he asked.

Smith tried to interject again before Wallace asked her to let him finish. The Fox host isn't sure there's a "hot solid case" for presidential impeachment, but it's a serious allegation, he concluded.

Historically Fox News has been an enterprise that propagates conservative-friendly content. But the seriousness of the whistleblower complaint has the news organization's staffers arguing about how to cover the impeachment proceedings, according to widely cited reporting by Vanity Fair.

Meanwhile, the philosophical differences among Fox News' hosts and guests have been broadcasted on air recently.

Earlier this week, Fox anchor Shepard Smith and host Tucker Carlson sparred over whether Trump's actions constitute a crime. Fox legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told Smith that Trump broke the law by pressuring Ukrainian leadership to investigate the Bidens.

On Tuesday night, Carlson brought on former Trump lawyer Joe diGenova, who called Napolitano a "fool." Smith lashed back the next day, calling Carlson repugnant for not defending Napolitano on air.

During his show, Carlson was dismissive of the impeachment inquiry, branding the Democratic case for impeachment "confusing and not all that interesting." He then turned his attention to the unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against the Bidens, saying that Democrats will have to defend them in the lead-up to the election.

"Good luck with that," Carlson said.

However, Wallace seemed to take the controversy more seriously. He said there's "meat on the bones" of the investigation, in part because of things the Trump administration has said.

"Two parts of the basic story here—that the president wanted Biden investigated, and that he had previously stopped aid that had been approved by Congress for Ukraine—those have been confirmed by the administration," Wallace said.