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Chris Wallace says he’s ‘going to be fine’ after CNN Plus shuttering

The Washington Post 4/25/2022 Jeremy Barr
Chris Wallace, right, with his wife, Lorraine, at a March 28 launch party for CNN Plus in New York. © Monica Schipper/Getty Images Chris Wallace, right, with his wife, Lorraine, at a March 28 launch party for CNN Plus in New York.

Chris Wallace abruptly left his longtime broadcast home of Fox News to join CNN’s new streaming service, only to see the entire enterprise scuttled after just a month.

But in his first public comments on the closure of CNN Plus, Wallace expressed no regrets or complaints. “I am going to be fine,” the veteran news anchor said at a Sunday night panel discussion hosted by the Common Ground Committee. “I’m in good shape, whether it’s at CNN or someplace else.”

His interview show, “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?”, has aired four times a week since CNN Plus’s launch on March 29; it will end along with the streaming service on April 30. But Wallace reserved most of his concern for the staff that helped him create it. “I think you’re seeing a lot of the anchors at CNN Plus doing every thing they can do to protect the people that were working on their team, and to make sure they either get a safe landing at CNN or someplace else,” he said.

CNN’s new parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, announced the decision Thursday to shutter the $100 million service and lay off about 350 employees. Those who are unable to find new roles at the broader company will be given at least six months of severance.

For the most part, though, Wallace declined the moderator’s offer to “make news” about his future or discuss the possibility that he will join CNN’s main television network. “No, I can’t make news, and no, I don’t know,” he told former CBS News journalist Jacqueline Adams, who moderated the event for the nonpartisan, nonprofit group. “My gosh, Jackie, it just happened on Thursday. Give me a couple of days.”

One certain thing is that Wallace will not be returning to Fox: In March, three months after he departed, he told the New York Times that he “no longer felt comfortable with the programming at Fox,” citing its far-right pundits who tried to raise doubts about the outcome of the 2020 election or whether the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was truly an insurrection.

At CNN Plus, Wallace said he was a “victim” of a broader pullback in the streaming industry, the same week that Netflix saw its stock price plunge after acknowledging it has lost subscribers for the first time in a decade. He noted that the leadership of CNN’s new parent company prefers to offer one main streaming service, as opposed to the news-specific product that CNN’s former leadership pursued. “When I came over to CNN Plus, there were some very smart people, from [former network president] Jeff Zucker to [former WarnerMedia chief executive] Jason Kilar, on down, who were saying that the future of cable news was in great jeopardy, because of the fact that you’re seeing people unbundle,” Wallace said. “The idea was that you’ve got to a get a foothold in the streaming world. … Two weeks ago, streaming was king … and, suddenly, streaming is in an ICU, on life support.”

He added: “I have absolutely no idea which is right and which is wrong, but the Discovery people are in charge, and so they made the decision.”

Former MSNBC and NBC News journalist Kasie Hunt, who also joined CNN to work on the streaming service, has already announced that she plans to remain at the network. Former NPR host Audie Cornish is also expected to find a new role with the company.

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