At first glance Donald Trump should be relieved that a Fox News host will moderate the first presidential debate on September 29.

Many observers consider the network to be the de facto propaganda arm of the White House, and its hosts are among Trump’s most loyal surrogates.

Chris Wallace, who will be behind the moderator’s desk later this month, is the rare exception: a Fox anchor who is unafraid to confront Trump.

“Any Republican who thinks Wallace will go easy on Trump is badly mistaken. He’s no joke,” a former West Wing official said.

The Trump campaign had hoped that the Commission on Presidential Debates would choose Bret Baier or Martha MacCallum, Fox anchors who are seen as less aggressive than Wallace.

Sources close to Trump are worried that Trump is unprepared to handle what Wallace could throw at him.

The two have history.

In July, Wallace’s contentious interview with Trump featured the president boasting that he passed a cognitive test. “Well, it’s not the hardest test,” Wallace responded. “It shows a picture and it says, ‘What’s that?’ And it’s an elephant.”

 

President Trump reacts to questions from Chris Wallace of Fox News.

 

Wallace is deeply unpopular with pro-Trump hosts at Fox.

“Chris hates Trump. He’s a passionate Democrat,” a pro-Trump Fox personality told Variety.

Wallace has told interviewers in the past that he only registered as a Democrat to participate in local Washington, D.C., elections.

Sean Hannity and Wallace have feuded behind the camera.

Several years ago they got into a heated email exchange, a source recalled.

At one point Hannity told Wallace the only reason he had a job in television was because of his famous father, a legendary 60 Minutes anchor.

Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti said this was “an old exchange” and there is “no ongoing feud” between Wallace and Hannity.

Briganti also disputed suggestions that Wallace dislikes Trump and pointed to positive comments he’s made about the president.

Perhaps anticipating a grilling by Wallace, Trump has been ratcheting up his anger at Fox.

Last week Trump called on Fox to fire national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin after she appeared on air and confirmed parts of Jeffrey Goldberg’s explosive Atlantic story detailing Trump allegedly making disparaging comments about America’s war dead.

Trump has also taken to promoting fringe Fox competitor One America News, which has provided glowing coverage of the president and amplified pro-Trump conspiracy theories.

In private Trump blames Fox Corp. cochairman Rupert Murdoch for allowing segments like Griffin’s on the air.

Sources who’ve spoken with Trump told me Trump thinks Murdoch wants him to lose.

“Trump definitely thinks Rupert is not in his corner,” a Republican close to the White House said.

Trump is not entirely wrong.

Sources close to Murdoch said Murdoch has told people he thinks Trump will lose in November.

Murdoch is thinking about how to steer his media empire into a post-Trump environment.

“This is about business for Rupert,” one source said.

Earlier this summer Trump screamed at Murdoch during a phone call, according to a source briefed on their conversation.

“They had a humongous blowup. Trump yelled that Fox’s coverage is unfair and the polling is fake,” the source said. “Rupert defended the network’s standards and polling.”

 

Written by Gabriel Sherman

 

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