Saturday, May 29, 2021


Fox News has been in the tank for the Republican Party since its inception, but its coverage of election returns has always been surprisingly straightforward and honest. In 2012, Fox's decision desk called the presidential race in Ohio for Barack Obama with 73% of the vote counted. When that call was made, Karl Rove freaked out on the air. Megyn Kelly, a Fox anchor at the time, walked on camera to the backroom where the numbers were being crunched, and was told that the analysts stood by their call. They were right. Rove was wrong. In 2020, again with 73% of the vote counted, the Fox decision desk called Arizona for Joe Biden -- a call that infuriated Donald Trump, who had been planning to declare victory prematurely. Again, the Fox decision desk was right.

Trump voters overwhelmingly believe that Trump won the election -- but it matters that they weren't being told that Trump won on Election Night by what was, at the time, their favorite TV channel.

Many non-conservatives believe that the wall of separation between Fox's opinion programs and its "straight news" broadcasts is solid and permanent. But there'll be no such separation during future elections, to judge from what Michael Grynbaum of The New York Times is telling us. For starters, the channel is becoming even Trumpier:
Fox News once devoted its 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. time slots to relatively straightforward newscasts. Now those hours are filled by opinion shows led by hosts who denounce Democrats and defend the worldview of former President Donald J. Trump.

For seven years, Juan Williams was the lone liberal voice on “The Five,” the network’s popular afternoon chat show. On Wednesday, he announced that he was leaving the program, after months of harsh on-air blowback from his conservative co-hosts. Many Fox News viewers cheered his exit on social media.

Donna Brazile, the former Democratic Party chairwoman, was hired by Fox News with great fanfare in 2019 as a dissenting voice for its political coverage. She criticized Mr. Trump and spoke passionately about the Black Lives Matter movement, which other hosts on the network often demonized. Ms. Brazile has now left Fox News; last week, she quietly started a new job at ABC.

Onscreen and off, in ways subtle and overt, Fox News has adapted to the post-Trump era by moving in a single direction: Trumpward.
It appears that Election Night coverage won't be an oasis of objectivity at Fox anymore:
In January, the network fired its veteran politics editor, Chris Stirewalt, who had been an onscreen face of the early call in Arizona for Mr. Biden. This month, it brought on a new editor in the Washington bureau: Kerri Kupec, a former spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s attorney general William P. Barr. She had no journalistic experience....

The longtime Washington bureau chief, Bill Sammon, resigned in January after internal criticism over his handling of election coverage, around the time that Mr. Stirewalt was fired.
So in 2024, and possibly in 2022, there's a good chance we'll see Fox arguing that Republicans have won contests that they haven't won. If Fox does this, it won't be with the wilder claims retailed by folks like Lin Wood, Sidney Powell, and Mike Lindell. It will be with allegations of fraud and chicanery that sound more plausible, and are recounted in a more sober manner. It will be obvious to reasonably skeptical people that Fox is lying -- but it might not be obvious to middle-of-the-road Americans, or to credulous members of the media, who'll be shocked to discover that Straight News Fox sounds like Opinion Fox.

Fox won't just throw every crazy theory at the wall and hope some of it sticks. Fox will create a believable (if thoroughly dishonest) narrative, probably starting several weeks before the votes are counted, and then pound it home on Election Night.

Will this make it easier for Republicans to steal elections? I hope it doesn't, but I fear it might.

No comments: