Inside the night Fox News was in 'turmoil'
Fox News/screen grab

On Tuesday, writing for The Washington Post, Philip Bump outlined how the new book "The Divider" by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser reveals Fox News was in crisis as the votes came in on election night of 2020, and the days and weeks immediately after.

The fundamental problem was that Fox News needed to report election results — but was torn between that and maintaining the trust of their mostly Trump-supporting viewers.

"It began when Fox News’s decision desk called the state of Arizona for Joe Biden," wrote Bump. "This was an aggressive call by any standard. No other network joined them, viewing the race as too close to call. The Fox News team was relying heavily on data and assumptions that would later prove to be incorrect or flawed, including data from the Associated Press, which also made an early call. Fox News’s experts predicted on election night that the votes weren’t there for Trump to close his deficit. He almost did."

Ultimately, Trump's own team got in touch with the network to demand a change in how the race was being covered, with anchor Bret Baier being one of the people they reached. Baier wrote an email to executives saying, "This situation is getting uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I keep having to defend this on air," and demanding they put Arizona "back in [Trump's] column" — an awkward request given Biden was still winning and Arizona had never been in "Trump's column" in the first place.

"Early in the morning after the election, the network’s CEO 'suggested that Fox should not call any more states until they were officially certified by election authorities,' meaning that the network would not be in the unhappy position of having to tell its audience of Trump fans that their president had both lost and was misleading them about this reality," said the report. "Other top executives agreed with this strategy, though it was not implemented. Instead, the network reportedly dragged its feet. When other networks called Nevada for Biden, Fox News President Jay Wallace blocked the network from following suit, Baker and Glasser write. After all, with Arizona already going for Biden, adding Nevada to the Democrat’s total would make Fox News the first network in the country to call the election against Trump."

After the election, Fox News did in fact see a dropoff of viewership among Trump supporters, many of whom migrated to the competing, farther-right networks Newsmax and One America News (OAN).

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