"I’m just sad with the way last night turned out," Wallace told theNew York Times in a phone interview on Wednesday, commenting Tuesday night's debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
Wallace said the event was a "terrible missed opportunity" and admitted that he "never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did."
The debate was hectic, disorderly and seemingly unmoderated almost from the first moments, with both Trump and Biden taking personal jabs at one another and speaking over each other, while Trump essentially shouted over Biden's answers and interrupted Wallace's comments and questions at nearly every turn.
"I’ve read some of the reviews. I know people think... I didn’t jump in soon enough," Wallace reflected, explaining that he didn't realize Trump planned on ignoring the agreed upon rules of debate throughout the night.
"I’ve never been through anything like this," Wallace stated.
Thinking back on Trump's behavior and Biden's response to being interrupted and insulted, Wallace said he realized in the moment, "If I didn’t try to seize control of the debate -- which I don’t know that I ever really did -- then it was going to just go completely off the tracks."
At one point during the debate, Wallace brought the proceedings to a momentary halt to try and course correct, and the moderator admitted that his main motivation at the time was "desperation."
"Generally speaking, I did as well as I could, so I don’t have any second thoughts there," Wallace said. "I’m just disappointed with the results... I’m disappointed for the country, because it could have been a much more useful evening than it turned out to be."
"As a practical matter, even if the president’s microphone had been shut, he still could have continued to interrupt," Wallace said, "and it might well have been picked up on Biden’s microphone, and it still would have disrupted the proceedings in the hall."
For more on the first presidential debate, see the video below.