Fox & Frenemies

“It’s a close call,” said Mr. Wallace. “I’m not sure I’d do it again.”

“I know a lot of liberal critics like to snicker at the slogan ‘fair and balanced,’ but, in fact, we take it very seriously,” he added. “My feeling is that a lot of time ‘fair and balanced’ means giving the conservative point of view because that doesn’t get reflected in the mainstream media. In this particular case, I thought ‘fair and balanced’ meant giving more of an explanation of Obama’s point of view.”

During Fox & Friends, Mr. Kilmeade had also defended Mr. Obama and argued that Mr. Doocy and Ms. Carlson should look at the quote in a broader context. At one point, he had even jokingly walked off the set. Later that day, Mr. Wallace appeared on Mr. Kilmeade’s talk radio show, where they continued to chew over the issue. Along the way, Mr. Kilmeade acknowledged that Mr. Doocy was genuinely ticked off. Mr. Wallace joked that so, too, were their bosses at Fox.

Mr. Wallace later told The Observer that in fact he had received one e-mail from a Fox News executive (he declined to name names). “It was not at all in the sense of, you know, how dare you defend Obama,” said Mr. Wallace. “It was in the sense that, isn’t this the kind of thing we should be talking about off camera, not on camera? I e-mailed him back and said, ‘I think you’re generally right, and I’m not going to make a habit of it.’ He wrote me right back and said, ‘Fine, forget about it. Have a good Easter.’”

To date, over this prolonged primary season, Mr. Obama has yet to appear on Mr. Wallace’s Sunday program. In response, several weeks ago, Mr. Wallace introduced “Obama Watch”—essentially a running clock adding up the amount of time that has elapsed since Mr. Obama had failed to make good on his apparent promise to appear on the show.

Mr. Wallace said that in the wake of his Friday comments, he received two supportive e-mails from members of the Obama campaign. “But nobody offered to put Obama on the air,” said Mr. Wallace, chuckling. He hastened to add, “Which wasn’t the point of this whole thing in the first place.”

Mr. Wallace said that perhaps in part because he has yet to interview Mr. Obama, he has spent a bunch of time recently “trying to understand who he is and what he believes in.” Recently, while on vacation in Jamaica, Mr. Wallace read cover-to-cover Mr. Obama’s first autobiography, Dreams From My Father, which delves at length into the senator’s thoughts on race and history and identity in America.

The book was fascinating, said Mr. Wallace. “He is a very interesting figure,” he said. “He comes from a very different background than the typical politician who runs for president, and was remarkably open about the conflicts that he’s felt and the journey that’s he undertaken.”

In a few days, Mr. Wallace’s own journey will take him back on the air with Fox & Friends. Since the dust-up, Mr. Wallace has yet to speak with Mr. Doocy or Ms. Carlson. He said he could understand if they were still a bit steamed. “Would I like it if Steve Doocy came on my show and started second-guessing on the air what I was doing?” said Mr. Wallace. “I probably wouldn’t appreciate it too much.”

“One of the great things about Fox is that people disagree with each other,” he said. “We certainly disagree vociferously with each other in private, and occasionally it does spill out on the air. I don’t think that’s a bad thing for us within Fox. And I certainly don’t think it’s a bad thing for the viewer.”

Fox & Frenemies