Fox News anchors Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier are major vectors of misinformation

Though framed by Fox as “straight news” anchors, Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum have allowed misinformation and conspiracy theories to spread on their shows for years. They were both involved in boosting Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election, and Baier in particular allowed guests to spew false claims about the election on the air despite privately admitting that there was no foul play or fraud behind the results. The pair are set to moderate the first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate on August 23.

  • Baier rebuked Trump’s fraud claims privately and publicly supported his lies regarding the 2020 election

    • In private texts with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson discovered during Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against the network, Baier agreed with Carlson that Fox’s decision to call the 2020 presidential race in Arizona “could really fuck up a lot of what we’ve built.” Baier pushed to prioritize viewership over the network’s election data. [Media Matters, 5/5/23]

    • Emails obtained through the Dominion filings show Baier encouraged rescinding Fox’s call that Joe Biden won Arizona, writing, “The sooner we pull it - even if it gives us major egg. And we put it back in his [Trump’s] column. The better we are. In my opinion.” [Media Matters, 3/22/23]

    Email from Bret Baier to Fox execs about AZ 2020 call

    • Two days after the 2020 election, Baier privately acknowledged, “There is NO evidence of fraud. None.” [Media Matters, 2/16/23]

    • After affirming on-air that the 2020 election was not stolen, Baier hosted Fox contributor Mollie Hemingway to promote her book on how the 2020 election was stolen. [Media Matters, 5/14/21]

    • On July 12, 2021, Baier reported on Trump’s comments at the Conservative Political Action Conference, during which he aired a clip of Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election without offering any context or pushback. [Media Matters, 7/13/21]

    • Earlier in the year, Baier reported on former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell pushing election falsehoods “that ‘no reasonable person’ would have believed,” without noting Fox’s involvement in spreading them. [Media Matters, 3/24/21]

    • Prior to the 2020 election, when Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power, Baier dismissed the threat by attempting a joke, saying, “The irony here is that Hillary Clinton didn’t seem like she accepted the results for many months” following the 2016 election. [Media Matters, 9/25/20]

    • A day before the January 6 insurrection, Baier claimed Democrats “did try to overturn an election” by impeaching Trump. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 1/5/21]

  • Baier downplayed January 6

    • Baier downplayed the January 6 insurrection as it was happening: “It's not like it's a siege. ... It seems like they are protesting.” [Fox News, The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino, 1/6/21]

    • The next day, Baier downplayed Trump’s incitement to insurrection. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 1/7/21]

    • Later, Baier compared Trump's incitement of the January 6 insurrection to Democrats’ rhetoric on Russia. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 1/7/21]

    • Baier attempted to delegitimize the House January 6 hearing, saying the select committee is not “bipartisan” despite “conceding that there are two Republican lawmakers on here but they are in lockstep and also have been chosen by House Speaker Pelosi.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 6/9/22]

  • Baier has spread right-wing misinformation

    • In 2016, Baier inaccurately described a common abortion procedure as “dismemberment abortion.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 1/22/16]

    • Baier also misled viewers that a Supreme Court case involving access to contraceptives was actually about abortion rights. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 3/23/16]

    • During 12 years of Baier’s tenure, nearly 88% of Special Report’s climate segments either spread misinformation or perpetuated false or misleading narratives. [Media Matters, 6/16/21]

    • Baier defended Fox News' false reporting that Joe Biden is giving out crack pipes. [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 2/9/22]

    • Baier pushed hoaxes about anti-fascist activists placing piles of bricks at protest sites during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. [Media Matters, 6/16/20]

    • Baier led Fox’s coverage of Hillary Clinton-related conspiracy theories stemming from unverified FBI leaks leading up to the 2016 election. [Media Matters, 11/3/16

    • Baier later apologized and walked back his reporting on the unverified claims about the Clinton Foundation and HiIlary Clinton being indicted. [Fox News, Happening Now, 11/4/16]

    • Baier pushed the conspiracy theory that text messages between two FBI officials showed an anti-Trump “secret society” within the agency. The conspiracy theory quickly fell apart, but not before the network obsessively pushed it; in two days, the phrase “secret society” appeared on Fox over 100 times. [Media Matters, 3/5/20, 1/25/18]

  • MacCallum was a major vector of misinformation around the 2020 election

    • During the 2020 election cycle, MacCallum misled viewers about “864 dead people” voting in Michigan’s primary, a false claim which she later was forced to correct. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 8/17/20; Media Matters, 11/8/22]

    • MacCallum described Trump’s remarks that the election is a “scam that the Democrats are pulling” as “interesting” and said that “the ground is being softened for all kinds of interpretations of what happens on that day, on both sides.” [Fox News, Bill Hemmer Reports, 9/23/20]

    • MacCallum baselessly speculated that she may receive two ballots because she requested to vote absentee. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 9/8/20]

    • During a November 4, 2020, panel, Fox News legal analyst Jonathan Turley said, “When people say ‘count every ballot,’ in a situation like this it could prove utter madness.” MacCallum agreed, saying, “There is going to be a lot of subjectivity in the question of whether or not all of these ballots are valid in many cases.” [Fox News, Democracy 2020: Election Coverage, 11/4/20]

    • Along with Baier, MacCallum reportedly encouraged Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to consider pro-Trump viewers’ reactions to the network’s call of Arizona for Biden during the 2020 election rather than factoring in “statistics” alone.

    Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the two main anchors, suggested it was not enough to call a state based on numerical calculations, the standard by which networks have made such determinations for generations, but that viewer reaction should be considered. “In a Trump environment,” Ms. MacCallum said, “the game is just very, very different.”

    Ms. Scott invited Mr. Baier and Ms. MacCallum, “the face” of the network, as she called them, to describe the heat they were taking, according to the recording reviewed by The Times.

    “We are still getting bombarded,” Mr. Baier said. “It became really hurtful.” He said projections were not enough to call a state when it would be so sensitive. “I know the statistics and the numbers, but there has to be, like, this other layer” so they could “think beyond, about the implications.”

    Ms. MacCallum agreed: “There’s just obviously been a tremendous amount of backlash, which is, I think, more than any of us anticipated. And so there’s that layer between statistics and news judgment about timing that I think is a factor.” For “a loud faction of our viewership,” she said, the call was a blow. [The New York Times, 3/4/23]

    • In an interview with former Trump campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany, MacCallum said that “everyone accepts skepticism” about the election. MacCallum concluded the interview by declaring, “You know, we agree with every element of not wanting people to be able to have to cast a vote that is not legal,” adding, “So I think pursuing this is good for transparency and it's good for the election system overall.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 11/12/20]

    • MacCallum opened the November 17 edition of her show with another round of suspicions being cast against the accuracy of the voting system: “And while the states by and large want you to believe that it went better than ever, in this highly sophisticated country that we live in, if you phone knows who you are, shouldn't your ballot be just as smart? Clearly there is room for improvement on the next round here.” [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 11/17/20]

    • After Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)claimed that the election was “stolen,” MacCallum agreed that states need to fix their election laws: “There are real issues that people have been fired up about, and I think rightfully so.” [Media Matters, 1/8/21]

    • After Fox contributor and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich alleged that Republican poll watchers were shut out of the counts in several cities, MacCallum told him, “I completely agree with you, all of that behavior is highly suspicious.” [Twitter, 11/6/20]

    • MacCallum did not push back when former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin alleged in the hours after the Capitol riot that “we don't know who all were the instigators in this of these horrible things that happen today, I think a lot of it is the antifa folks," according to “pictures” she was sent. [Twitter, 1/6/21]

  • MacCallum has spread right-wing misinformation

    • In May 2020, MacCallum falsely claimed former President Barack Obama failed to warn Trump about potential security concerns regarding national security adviser Michael Flynn. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 5/19/20]

    • A month later, MacCallum presented a guest as a leader of Black Lives Matter who had no affiliation with the official group to spread lies about the movement. [Media Matters, 6/26/20]

  • Selected additional research on Baier and MacCallum

    • Fox's MacCallum doesn't know what the EPA does [Media Matters, 1/19/11]

    • Fox's “straight news” anchor Martha MacCallum regularly advocates GOP positions [Media Matters, 5/18/11]

    • Fox “straight news” “save[s] the economy” with right-wing talking points [Media Matters, 7/8/11]

    • Fox “straight news” anchor Martha MacCallum's “fair and balanced” coverage neither fair nor balanced [Media Matters, 5/8/12]

    • Fox anchor Bret Baier botches Benghazi timeline [Media Matters, 5/7/13]

    • A case study on why Fox News can’t be trusted: Bret Baier edition [Media Matters, 11/5/16]

    • Trump’s upcoming Fox News town hall is a good reminder that Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum are not serious “news” anchors [Media Matters, 3/5/20]

    • Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier are anchoring Fox's convention coverage. They have utterly failed to cover 2020 responsibly. [Media Matters, 8/16/20]

    • 117 times Fox's “straight news” anchor Martha MacCallum pushed right-wing narratives over seven weeks [Media Matters, 10/19/20]

    • Fox’s flagship “straight news” show has a troubling record on the climate crisis [Media Matters, 6/16/21]

    • Bret Baier will keynote event for GOP-aligned organization that “trains leaders to push forward the conservative agenda” [Media Matters, 2/7/22]

    • The humiliation of Bret Baier and the Fox “news side” [Media Matters, 6/10/22]

    • Fox executives and top anchor Bret Baier tried to subvert decision desk election calls in 2020 [Media Matters, 9/20/22]

    • Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum to keynote fundraiser for group that “trains leaders to push forward the conservative agenda” [Media Matters, 1/24/23]

    • They knew it was a lie: The behind-the-scenes happenings at Fox while the network pushed false claims about Dominion [Media Matters, 2/16/23]