After calling the presidential election, Fox cast doubt on the results and pushed conspiracy theories more than 250 times
In the four days after Fox News declared Joe Biden the president-elect at 11:40 a.m. on November 7, the network has cast doubt on or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results at least 255 times. A review by Media Matters found 111 such claims on Fox’s “straight news” shows and 144 claims on the network’s opinion shows.
Since his loss, President Donald Trump, his legal team, and his supporters have attempted to spread baseless conspiracy theories about voter fraud in the 2020 election. They've falsely claimed that dead voters have had a significant impact on voting numbers in multiple states, pushed conspiracies about voting technology, and have repeatedly complained about the press calling the election for Biden, ignoring the rigorous process that media outlets have for declaring a winner in presidential races.
Although some have credited Fox in recent days for moderately pushing back on election misinformation or for its one-time decision to stop airing a Trump campaign event full of baseless fraud accusations, the credit is unwarranted. Fox News has repeatedly aided the Trump campaign’s efforts to undermine confidence in the results of the 2020 elections, echoing debunked theories, pushing the idea that Democrats “are trying to steal this from President Trump,” and arguing that Trump is justified in pursuing these claims of a rigged election. And while some Fox hosts have taken pushed back against these false claims, guests who repeat misinformation about voter fraud have repeatedly been invited back on the network, and hosts themselves often repeat the Trump administration’s debunked voting fraud talking points.
Media Matters reviewed Fox transcripts for individual claims from Fox personalities and their guests that cast doubt over or pushed conspiracy theories about the election results. (We defined each claim as an uninterrupted block of speech; as a result, an individual claim could both cast doubt and push conspiracy theories simultaneously.) On the news side, Fox aired 81 claims expressing doubt over the results and 52 claims pushing conspiracy theories, and on the opinion side, the network aired 99 claims casting doubt and 68 claims pushing conspiracy theories.
Claims that cast doubt on Biden’s victory included statements declaring that people decide elections rather than media outlets, encouraging President Donald Trump to contest the results through any available legal options despite Biden’s insurmountable leads in several states, and emphasizing Trump’s mantra of counting all “legal” votes. We found 180 such claims on Fox over the period studied.
Claims that pushed conspiracy theories about the election results included statements suggesting that dead people voted, that any kind of voter fraud impacted the election, that Dominion voting machines deleted Trump votes, and that a deep state supercomputer known as “Hammer” with software program “Scorecard” fixed votes to swing the election for Biden. We found 120 such claims over the period studied.
The network’s top purveyor of disinformation was Trump’s favorite morning show: Fox & Friends, including its early morning and weekend editions, aired 38 total claims. Of those, 23 cast doubt and 20 pushed conspiracy theories about the results.
Following closely behind was Fox host Sean Hannity and his prime-time show Hannity, which aired 32 total claims. Of those, 25 cast doubt and 13 pushed conspiracy theories about the results. Hannity himself was responsible for 17 of those claims on his own show. He personally cast doubt on the results 15 times and pushed conspiracy theories 5 times.
It’s extremely dangerous that Fox News is repeatedly casting doubt and spreading conspiracy theories in synergy with the Trump campaign, helping give the false impression that the election was “stolen” or “rigged” and undermining confidence in our election system.
Media Matters searched transcripts in the SnapStream video database for all original programming on Fox News Channel for any of the terms “election” or “ballot” or any variation of the term “vote” within close proximity of any of the terms “challenge,” “certified,” “counted,” “not final,” “not over,” “dead,” “stolen,” “steal,” “hammer,” or “scorecard” or any variations of any of the terms “illegal,” “legal,” or “fraud” from 11:40 a.m. EST November 7 (the time that Fox News called the race for Biden) through November 10, 2020.
We counted claims that cast doubt on the election results, such as statements advocating that all “legal” votes need to be counted, and claims that pushed conspiracy theories about the results, such as statements suggesting mass voter fraud. We defined a claim as an uninterrupted block of speech from a single speaker. Individual claims could both cast doubt and push conspiracy theories simultaneously.
We included original statements from speakers. We did not include clips or quotes of others unless we found positive affirmation from another speaker on the program either before or after the clip or quote.
We split Fox programs into “straight news” and “opinion” sides. We defined “straight news” programs as those with anchors, such as Bret Baier or Shannon Bream, while we defined “opinion” programs as those with hosts, such as Tucker Carlson or Laura Ingraham, at the helm. We used the designations from each anchor or host’s FoxNews.com author page. We also considered the format of the program; we defined those using a panel format, such as Outnumbered and The Five, as “opinion.”