An Insider Account Of How Fox Called Ohio On Election Night
Rove Fought Decision To Call Ohio For Obama; Fox Decided To "Show Off Megyn Kelly's Legs" While Explaining The Call
New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman reported that after Fox News initially made the call that President Obama had won Ohio, Karl Rove -- a contributor to the network and the head of a pro-Mitt Romney super PAC -- fought against the decision, causing "Fox News' top producers" to call a meeting with Rove and two of the people in charge of making the Ohio call, Arnon Mishkin and Chris Stirewalt.
Ultimately, Fox decided to have Mishkin and Stirewalt explain their reasoning on-air. But rather than have the duo appear on camera, producers decided to have Fox anchor Megyn Kelly "walk through the office and interview" Mishkin and Stirewalt in a conference room. Sherman reported that an anonymous Fox insider said: "This is Fox News ... so anytime there's a chance to show off Megyn Kelly's legs they'll go for it."
From Sherman's article:
Shortly after 11 p.m., Bret Baier went on-camera to read a script written by Fox's Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, based on an analysis by the network's decision desk, announcing Ohio for Obama. "That's the presidency, essentially," Baier said.
Instantly, Fox phones lit up with angry phone calls and e-mails from the Romney campaign, who believed that the call was premature, since tallies in several Republican-leaning Southern counties hadn't been been fully tabulated. "The Romney people were totally screaming that we're totally wrong," one Fox source said. "To various people, they were saying, 'your decision team is wrong.'" According to a Fox insider, Rove had been in contact with the Romney people all night. After the Ohio call, Rove -- whose super-PAC had spent as much as $300 million on the election, to little avail -- took their complaints public, conducting an on-air primer on Ohio's electoral math in disputing the call.
This time, it was the network divided against itself, and Fox News' top producers held a meeting to adjudicate. The decision desk stood their ground. They knew how momentous the call was. Earlier in the night, according to a source, before making the call, Arnon Mishkin, who heads the decision desk, told Fox brass, "let's remember this is Fox News calling Ohio. This will say something beyond Ohio going for Obama." Fox brass told Mishkin to get the numbers right and ignore the politics: "If we think Ohio has gone Obama, we call Ohio," said a Fox News executive.
With neither side backing down, senior producers had to find a way to split the difference. One idea was for two members of the decision team, Mishkin and Fox's digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt, to go on camera with Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier to squelch the doubts over the call. But then it was decided that Kelly would walk through the office and interview the decision team in the conference room. "This is Fox News," an insider said, "so anytime there's a chance to show off Megyn Kelly's legs they'll go for it."