Chris Stirewalt, who was fired from his position as Fox News' political editor earlier this month, infuriated President Donald Trump and his allies when he called Arizona for Joe Biden on Election Night. For weeks after that, Trump and members of his campaign angrily railed against Fox News' decision desk and demanded a retraction. But Stirewalt's reporting was vindicated: Biden did win Arizona by a narrow but solid margin. And Stirewalt discusses his decision in an op-ed published by the Los Angeles Times this week.
"I wanted to steam downriver as fast as I could to be first with the news to beat the competition and serve my audience," Stirewalt recalls. "That's why I was proud of our being first to project that Joe Biden would win Arizona, and very happy to defend that call in the face of a public backlash egged on by former President Trump."
It's important to understand where Stirewalt fit in at Fox News, which has hard news programming and opinion programming. The far-right opinion hosts include Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, among many others, while Chris Wallace is a leading star of its hard news division.
Stirewalt was a part of Fox's hard news division, and in hard news, being the first to report breaking news is a high priority. But calling Arizona for Biden angered Trump and his allies so much that Newsmax TV, a far-right Fox News competitor, had a field day promoting itself as more pro-Trump than Fox News.
Stirewalt doesn't talk about Newsmax in his Times article, but he does get into the ways in which the news business has evolved over the years.
"Having worked in cable news for more than a decade after a wonderfully misspent youth in newspapers, I can tell you the result: a nation of news consumers both overfed and malnourished," Stirewalt explains. "Americans gorge themselves daily on empty informational calories, indulging their sugar fixes of self-affirming half-truths and even outright lies. Can anyone really be surprised that the problem has gotten worse in the last few years?"
Stirewalt goes on to say that when he called Arizona for Biden, he committed a cardinal sin in the minds of Trump supporters who didn't want to hear the truth.
"The rebellion on the populist right against the results of the 2020 election was partly a cynical, knowing effort by political operators and their hype men in the media to steal an election or at least get rich trying," Stirewalt notes. "But it was also the tragic consequence of the informational malnourishment so badly afflicting the nation. When I defended the call for Biden in the Arizona election, I became a target of murderous rage from consumers who were furious at not having their views confirmed."
The former Fox News political editor continues, "Many Americans now consider any news that might suggest that they are in error or that their side has been defeated as an attack on them personally. The lie that Trump won the 2020 election wasn't nearly as much aimed at the opposing party as it was at the news outlets that stated the obvious, incontrovertible fact."