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To little effect, Chris Wallace tried to put the brakes on Trump's frequent interruptions

The Fox News moderator of the first debate said the nation would be better served by letting candidates finish their answers.
Image: President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in their first 2020 presidential campaign debate in Cleveland
Debate moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel talks to the audience before President Donald Trump and Joe Biden debate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland on Tuesday.Brian Snyder / Reuters

He's known as a tough interviewer, but Chris Wallace struggled Tuesday night to actually moderate the presidential debate, failing to rein in an often-interrupting President Donald Trump.

Former Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill told NBC News that Wallace "really got run over by Donald Trump's outrageous behavior on the stage."

The president repeatedly ignored Wallace's entreaties to let Biden finish his answers beginning early in the debate, leading to free-for-alls for 90 minutes in which he and Biden were speaking over each other.

"I hate to raise my voice, but why should I be different than the two of you?" a frustrated Wallace interjected at one point.

"I think the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I'm appealing to you, sir, to do that," Wallace told Trump.

"And him, too," Trump interrupted, referring to Biden.

"Well, frankly, you've been doing more interrupting than he has," Wallace said.

Despite that and other attempts to get the candidates to follow the debate rules they'd agreed to ahead of time, the interruptions and the cross-talk continued, much to the chagrin of viewers.

Democratic strategist James Carville told MSNBC that Wallace "should get combat pay" for the number of times he needed to "chastise" Trump. Columnist Eugene Robinson said Wallace tried his best "but clearly lost control."

The criticism on social media was harsher.

"The loser of this debate is Chris Wallace," author Igor Volsky tweeted.

One person tweeted, "is etsy selling Chris Wallace doormats yet?"

Law professor Rick Hasen tweeted, "I generally like Chris Wallace as a questioner and think he's a straight shooter," but he "let himself get completely overridden by Trump. He should have halted the debate until Trump complied."

Criticism came from the right, as well, with complaints that Wallace challenged the president too much.

"Chris Wallace, over the course of the night, has moved from moderator to debater," conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted.

National Review editor Rich Lowry said the debate was such a train wreck that some major changes should be in order.

"I wouldn't be surprised if there was not another presidential debate in this cycle," Lowry told NBC News. "At the very least, I think the Presidential Debate Commission has to consider cutting off the mics of the people, the person who is not supposed to be speaking and whose time it isn't."