The head of Fox News’s Election Day decision desk defended the network’s early call for Joe Biden in Arizona during the 2020 election.
Privately, network executives were panicked — and Donald Trump’s White House was pushing back, Brian Stelter lays out in his latest book, “Network of Lies,” which came out Tuesday.
Some advisors to the Trump campaign even took to social media to publicly criticise the choice and the network’s team of analysts who made it. Stelter adds that behind the scenes, they were also pressuring Fox to retract the call, a strategy he dubs “the bully-Fox-into-backing-down campaign.”
According to Stelter, senior Trump advisor Jason Miller texted Fox News’ longstanding head of the D.C. bureau Bill Sammon, “way too soon to be calling Arizona, way too soon,” prompting Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, to call Sammon and inquire about the network’s justification for the call. According to Stelter, Hope Hicks, who oversaw communications at Fox between her roles as communications director for Trump’s 2016 campaign and as White House communications director, messaged Raj Shah, a senior vice president at Fox whom she had recruited, to urge him to reverse the network’s decision in Arizona.
Indictments have been filed against Trump and his allies for their alleged attempts to sabotage the election and prevent Biden from becoming president.
Trump was hit with four criminal counts in August for his alleged involvement in the violence on January 6. Shortly thereafter, a grand jury in Georgia charged Bush and 18 others, including Meadows, for conspiring to overturn Biden’s victory there.
Stelter reports that internal pressure was applied on Fox’s decision desk as executives and hosts saw viewers leave for Newsmax.
The choice is “hurting us,” Fox’s Bret Baier stated in a previously disclosed email to Sammon, Fox editor Chris Stirewalt and Fox executive Jay Wallace. If we have to pull the plug immediately, we might as well go for broke. And we reinserted it into his column. As a result, we improve. Baier reportedly wrote, “In my view,” with Stelter quoting him. Despite the fact that Fox never reversed the call, both Sammon and Stirewalt left the network within a few of months.
Documents released as part of Fox’s headline-grabbing $787.5 million settlement with Dominion voting systems, in which Dominion claimed that Fox intentionally spread bogus conspiracy theories about its products to win back voters after the 2020 election, are used throughout the book by Stelter.
In addition, Stelter details occasions where Fox head Rupert Murdoch urged the network to aid Republican candidates in tight contests for Congress in 2020.
Stelter reports that in an email to Fox employees before the 2020 election, Murdoch urged them to cover “some of the close Senate races and give a little exposure to Republicans fighting to” hold or win important seats. Stelter claims that Murdoch’s intention was to aid his personal pals in the Senate, such as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the incumbent’s opponent, Mehmet Oz.
Murdoch urged Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to turn focus to the Georgia runoff contest between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker after Trump’s loss, and he expected the former president would eventually capitulate, as Stelter reports.
Murdoch reportedly told Scott in an email, “We should concentrate on Georgia, helping any way we can,” in reference to the ongoing conflict in Georgia.