The only debate moderator to return, Fox's Wallace preps

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2016 file photo, moderator Chris Wallace guides the discussion during the presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas.  All eyes are on Fox's Chris Wallace as he prepares to moderate the first presidential debate. Wallace is the only journalist moderating one of the four debates this fall who has been there before: he was the onstage referee for the third meeting between President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.  (Joe Raedle/Pool via AP, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2016 file photo, moderator Chris Wallace guides the discussion during the presidential debate at UNLV in Las Vegas. All eyes are on Fox's Chris Wallace as he prepares to moderate the first presidential debate. Wallace is the only journalist moderating one of the four debates this fall who has been there before: he was the onstage referee for the third meeting between President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Joe Raedle/Pool via AP, File)

NEW YORK – Four years ago when he first moderated a general election presidential debate, Chris Wallace was firm and funny in trying to get Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to stop talking simultaneously.

“I'm not a potted plant here,” he said. “I do get to ask some questions.”

He'll have more queries Tuesday when the 72-year-old “Fox News Sunday” host moderates the first of three scheduled debates between President Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. He's the only host this fall who has been there before.

Wallace declined an interview request through Fox but his work offers clues about how he will approach the assignment.

It was a coup for Wallace, and his network, when he became the first Fox News journalist assigned to a debate — even more so to get the leadoff position this year. A former White House correspondent with NBC in the 1980s, Wallace left ABC News' crowded bench in 2003 for his own Sunday show at Fox.

He's a straight shooter with a reputation for independence, his stature increasing as opinion personalities became more ascendant at Fox.

“Nobody does his homework better than Chris,” said Tom Bettag, former ABC “Nightline” producer who now teaches journalism at the University of Maryland. “He will come to the debate having worked his tail off to have all the facts and be able to anticipate what each candidate will say.”

Wallace is methodical, even-tempered and never showy — in many ways the polar opposite of his dad Mike, the legendary “60 Minutes” man who relished his reputation as the interviewer no one wanted to see on the doorstep.