Prior to the first presidential debate, moderator Chris Wallace said his goal was to be "invisible" – but at many points it seemed the Fox News host was arguing with Donald Trump more than Joe Biden.
Tuesday night's chaotic head-to-head in Ohio – aptly described as a "s***show" by one host – at points more or less descended into a three-way shouting match between the men.
"First of all, I guess I'm debating you, not him – that's okay, I'm not surprised," the President snarkily said to Wallace during one exchange early on about Obamacare, after the host repeatedly interrupted his answer.
Several times during the debate, Wallace cut into Trump's answers, telling him he was getting ahead of the subject.
"We're going to that in the next segment," he said at one point, as Trump attempted to talk up the post-Covid-19 economic recovery during a discussion about a vaccine.
Wallace repeatedly asked Trump to "let him finish" when he spoke over his Democratic rival, who largely avoided eye contact with the US President, instead directing his answers to the moderator or turning to look down the camera and speak to the American people.
"Please let him speak, Mr President," Wallace said, as the Republican hammered Biden over his 110-page far-left "manifesto" jointly released with Senator Bernie Sanders earlier this year. "There is no manifesto, number one …" Biden said, as Trump continued to speak over him.
Later, as the discussion turned to the Supreme Court, Biden refused to answer when asked by Wallace whether he supported calls by some Democrats to "pack the court" by adding more seats to the nine-Justice bench – a controversial policy with little public support.
The Democratic candidate claimed that whatever his answer was, "that will become the issue". "The issue is the American people should speak," he said. "You should go out and vote. You're in voting now. Vote and let your senators know how strongly you feel."
Trump asked, "Will you pack the court? Why wouldn't you answer the question?"
Biden, getting flustered, hit out, "Will you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential."
Wallace then leapt in to defuse the situation, saying "we've ended this segment".
The moderator was forced to literally yell for the first time later in the debate as Biden angrily denied any wrongdoing by his son Hunter Biden, after Trump repeatedly raised revelations in a Republican-led Senate report that he had received US$3.5 million from the wife of the former mayor of Moscow.
"Mr President!" Wallace yelled. "Mr President, let him answer!"
As the angry back-and-forth continued, Wallace yelled again, "Gentlemen! I hate to raise my voice but it seems to me, why shouldn't I be different than the two of you?"
Near the end of the 90-minute slog, as both candidates were given two minutes to make their case to voters, Trump again interrupted Biden to bring up Hunter Biden.
"No, no. Wait a minute," Wallace said. "Mr President, your campaign agreed to both sides getting two-minute answers uninterrupted. Why don't you agree what your campaign agreed to as a ground rule? It was a rhetorical question."
Biden asked, "Can I have back 30 seconds?"
Wallace said, "Yes, you may have."
Just over an hour in, as Trump argued with the moderator, Wallace said, "If you want to switch seats we can do that."
In one moment that raised eyebrows, Biden was invited to respond to a diatribe from Trump. "Mr Vice President, answer his final question," Wallace said.
"The final question is – I can't remember which of all his rantings it was," Biden said.
Wallace laughed, responding, "I'm having a little trouble myself!"
Many of the President's supporters were critical of Wallace's performance.
"Here's the deal. (Donald Trump) beat Wallace. Biden came in a distant bumbling mumbling third," tweeted Rudy Giuliani, former New York Mayor and Trump's personal lawyer.
"Wallace said he wants to be 'invisible' in this debate. Apparently 'invisible' means 'talk more than both candidates combined'," said conservative blogger Matt Walsh.
Lawyer Harmeet Dhillon said Wallace was "a disgrace". "Republicans need to stop allowing the slanted media to have any role in debates in future years," she wrote.
Actor and prominent Trump supporter James Woods wrote, "Chris Wallace is shamelessly biased. It's a beautiful demonstration of fake news in action. I'm actually glad it's happening, because you can see it for yourself."
Donald Trump Jr, speaking to fellow Fox News personality Sean Hannity after the debate, slammed the moderator. "I understand he is a Fox guy but he's no conservative," he said. "He's no centrist either."
Sean Davis from The Federalist said, "Chris Wallace is making very clear that his goal tonight is to run interference for Joe Biden. If he wants to be a deranged NeverTrumper, that's his prerogative, but Wallace is doing everything in his power to tilt the election toward his preferred candidate. Everyone can see it."
Even many of Wallace's colleagues were apparently not happy. National Review columnist and Fox News contributor Andy McCarthy wrote, "I love Chris Wallace, but he should get out of the way."
Fellow Fox News host Greg Gutfeld backed conservative commentator Stephen Miller's view that "Wallace laughing along with Biden isn't a good look". "That was not good," Gutfeld agreed.
Some on the left also criticised Wallace – but for not doing more to bring Trump under control. "Question. Chris Wallace is not doing a good job as debate moderator, no doubt about that," said journalist and former Hillary Clinton campaign co-chair Yashar Ali.
"But in terms of Trump's repeated interrupting would another moderator have handled it better? Without the ability to mute a microphone, what could another moderator have done?"