The former political director for Fox News blamed the conservative network's hosts for the "panic" and confusion over President Joe Biden's election win.
Chris Stirewalt oversaw the decision to call Arizona for Biden, before any other network had projected him the winner, which set off fury from former President Donald Trump and various Fox News broadcasters, and he told NPR that he was disturbed by the reaction.
"We don't award any electoral votes, we don't count any ballots -- we are some nerds in a room, and that's it," Stirewalt said. "We're just telling you what's going to happen. We're not making anything happen."
Trump and his allies had been watching Fox News hosts assure them for months that he would easily win re-election, and Stirewalt said they experienced cognitive dissonance when his team signaled the former president was likely to lose.
"It showed to me how much television — the perceptions of events, of television as entertainment, news as entertainment and treating it like a sport -- had really damaged the capacity of Americans to be good citizens in a republic because they confused the TV show with the real thing," he said. "Part of the problem, of course, was that there were opinion hosts on Fox who, for months and months and months, had been repeating the baseless claim that Trump was going to win the election for sure."
Stirewalt said previous GOP candidates, including Mitt Romney, had been angry about Fox News projecting their loss, but he said Trump's loss triggered something even more alarming.
"What happened in 2020 was abnormal — a furious, murderous kind of rage," Stirewalt told NPR.