I’ve never been much of a Chris Wallace fan, regardless of the network he’s worked for. I didn’t see him at all during his years at Fox News Channel, and was surprised when the previous management of CNN lured him away to do a weekly show for the ill-fated CNN+. He didn’t seem to be enough of a marquee name to convince consumers to pay extra to watch him.
Once that streaming platform died a quick death last year, Wallace’s show was relegated to the main CNN channel on Sunday nights, which has to be one of the network’s lowest-rated dayparts. He’s also been brought in to comment on election coverage, but you won’t find anyone who can quote a clever, original thing he’s said.
Nonetheless, I decided to check out the latest episode of “Who’s Talking To Chris Wallace?” (which streams on HBO Max) because one of his guests was Neil deGrasse Tyson. The astrophysicist was there to promote his latest book, “Starry Messenger,” which has been out for a few months. He’s a money-in-the-bank guest, and I was curious to see which areas of his expertise they might delve into.
Sadly, Wallace didn’t ask Tyson a single question he hasn’t already answered many times before. For instance, he dredged up Tyson’s role in downgrading Pluto’s status as a planet — which took place 17 years ago! Wallace asked Tyson if he believes there’s alien life somewhere in the universe. Again, a topic that’s been covered ad nauseam. He made Tyson re-tell the story of how he became fascinated with astronomy as a young boy growing up in The Bronx.
These are subjects only a bad interviewer would revisit, and they indicate a complete lack of effort on the part of Wallace and/or his producer. Remember, Wallace only has to come up with an hour of content each week.
I speak from experience, because Tyson was a guest on my radio show several times. In fact, I just went to my audio archives and found a conversation I had with him in 2017, in which we discussed:
- How much the giant projector in a planetarium has changed in his lifetime because of discoveries in the sky;
- How we know dark matter exists in the universe;
- Why he disagrees with Stephen Hawking about humanity becoming a multi-planet species;
- How we can get more young women interested in STEM careers;
- The time Neil tried to improve his singing with autotune.
If I were to interview Tyson today, one of the topics I’d like to cover would be his thoughts on advances in artificial intelligence. Come to think of it, I bet even the AI platform ChatGPT could come up with a better list of questions than Wallace did. In fact, when I asked the AI platform, here are five queries it produced:
- How do you see the future of space exploration and colonization in the next few decades?
- What are your thoughts on the current state of science education and its impact on society?
- Can you discuss the importance of diversity and representation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)?
- What do you consider to be some of the biggest unanswered questions in the field of astrophysics?
- How do you see the role of science and technology in addressing some of the world’s most pressing challenges, such as climate change and global poverty?
Those are all pretty generic, but would still serve as a jumping-off point for Tyson to expand upon. And every subject is better than what professional journalist Chris Wallace came up with.
Previously on Harris Online…