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Chris Wallace of Fox News Debates President Trump on Climate Change

By Terence P. Jeffrey | September 30, 2020 | 4:37pm EDT
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(Screen Capture)

More than an hour and twelve minutes into Tuesday night’s presidential debate that was supposed to be between President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden, moderator Chris Wallace personally engaged President Trump in a debate on “climate change” that lasted for about 3 minutes and 45 seconds.

At the beginning of the debate, Wallace explained that the Commission on Presidential Debates, which was sponsoring the event, had set up a format in which the longest that either candidate would speak was for two minutes.

As designed, after the candidates gave two minute answers to a segment-opening question, they would then engage in a period of "open discussion."

“The commission has designed the format: six roughly 15-minute segments with two-minute answers from each candidate to the first question, then open discussion for the rest of each segment. Both campaigns have agreed to these rules,” Wallace explained to the television audience.

But at approximately 1 hour, twelve minutes and 45 seconds into the debate, Wallace brought up the issue of “climate change.”

“You know,” said Wallace, “I’d like to talk about climate change.”

“So would I,” Biden responded immediately.

But Wallace did not then direct a question about “climate change” at Biden.

Instead he turned to Trump and said: “Okay. The forest fires in the West are raging now. They have burned millions of acres. They have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. When state officials there blame the fires on climate change, Mr. President, you said I don't think the science knows. Over your four years, you have pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord. You have rolled back a number of Obama environmental records. What do you believe about the science of climate change and what will you do in the next four years to confront it?”

Rather than turn to Biden after Trump responded to this question, Wallace directed questions and statements at Trump five more times consecutively.

Wallace asked Trump: “What do you believe about the science of climate change, sir?”

Then Wallace asked Trump: “Do you believe that human pollution, gas, greenhouse gas emissions contributes to the global warming of the planet?”

Then Wallace asked Trump: “But sir, if you believe in the science of climate change, why have you rolled back the Obama clean power plan, which limited carbon emissions in power plants?"

Then Wallace asked Trump: “Why have you relaxed fuel economy standards that are going to create more pollution form cars and trucks?”

Then Wallace said to Trump: “But in the case of California, they've simply ignored your ruling rollback.”

At other times in the debate, Wallace reminded Trump that he was “the moderator” of the event.

“I'm the moderator of this debate and I would like you to let me ask my question and then you can answer,” Wallace said at one point.

“I’m going to take back the moderator’s role,” Wallace said at another point.

“Well , you know, as the moderator, sir, I’m going to make a judgement call here,” Wallace said at another point.

Here is a transcript of the approximately 3-minute-and-45-second exchange during Tuesday night’s debate that Chris Wallace had with President Trump:

Chris Wallace: “You know, I'd like to talk about climate change.”

Joe Biden: “So would I."

Wallace: “Okay. The forest fires in the west are raging now. They have burned millions of acres. They have displaced hundreds of thousands of people. When state officials there blame the fires on climate change, Mr. President, you said I don't think the science knows. Over your four years, you have pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord. You have rolled back a number of Obama environmental records. What do you believe about the science of climate change and what will you do in the next four years to confront it?”

President Donald Trump: “I want crystal clean water and air. I want beautiful clean air. We have now the lowest carbon. If you look at our numbers right now, we are doing phenomenally. But I haven't destroyed our businesses. Our businesses aren't put out of commission.

“If you look at the Paris Accord, it was a disaster from our stand point. And people are actually very happy about what's going on because our businesses are doing well. As far as the fires are concerned, you need forest management. In addition to everything else, the forest floors are loaded up with trees, dead trees that are years old and they're like leaves and everything else. You drop a cigarette in there, the whole forest burns down. You've got to have forest management. You've got to have cuts—”

Wallace: “What do you believe--what do you believe about the science of climate change, sir?"

Trump: “I believe that we have to do everything we can to have immaculate air, immaculate water and do whatever else we can that's good. You know we're planting a billion trees, the Billion Tree Project. And it's very exciting for a lot of people.”

Wallace: “Do you believe that human pollution, gas, greenhouse gas emissions contributes to the global warming of the planet?”

Trump: “I think a lot of things do but I think to an extent yes. I think to an extent yes. But I also think we have to do better management of our forest. Every year I get the call: California is burning. California is burning. If that was cleaned, if that were--if you have forest management, good forest management, you wouldn't be getting those calls.

“You know in Europe they live they’re forest cities. They're called forest cities. They maintain their forest. They manage their forest. I was with the head of major country. It's a forest city. He said, sir, we have trees that are far more--they ignite much easier than California. There shouldn't be that problem. I spoke with the governor about it. I'm getting along very well with the governor. But I said, you know, at some point you can't every year have hundreds of thousands of acres of land just burn to the ground. That's burning down because of a lack of management.”

Wallace: “But sir, if you believe in the science of climate change, why have you rolled back the Obama clean power plan, which limited carbon emissions in power plants? Why have you relaxed--”

Trump: “Because it was driving energy prices through the sky--”

Wallace: “Why have you relaxed fuel economy standards that are going to create more pollution form cars and trucks?”

Trump: “Well, not really because what's happening is the car is much less expensive and it’s a much safer car and you're talking about a tiny difference. And then what would happen because of the cost of the car, you would have at least double and triple the number of cars purchased. We have the old slugs out there that are 10, 12 years old. If you did that, the car would be safer, it would be much cheaper by $3,500--”

Wallace: “But in the case of California, they've simply ignored your ruling rollback.”

Trump: “No, but you would take a lot of cars off the market because people would be able to afford a car. Now—So, and by the way, we're going to see how that turns out. But a lot of people agree with me, many people. The car has gotten so expensive because they have computers all over the place for an extra little bit of gasoline.”

Wallace: “Okay.”

Trump: “And I'm OK with electric cars, too. I think--I'm all for electric cars. I've given big incentives for electric cars. But what they've done in California is just crazy."

Wallace: “All right.”

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