Fox News has responded to a new book’s damning reports about how senior network executives and top anchor Bret Baier tried to subvert the election calls of Fox’s decision desk in 2020. Tellingly, the network issued an evasive statement from Baier defending his own conduct, while remaining silent on the even more condemning allegations involving the network brass.
Two days after Election Day, as Fox came under fire from President Donald Trump and his allies for its election night call of Arizona for Joe Biden, Baier reportedly emailed network president Jay Wallace and suggested Fox “pull” the Arizona call and “put it back in [Trump's] column.” Peter Baker and Susan Glasser recount the event in their new book, The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021.
Fox issued a statement from Baier in response to reports about the book’s allegation on Tuesday. Baier complained that the “full context of the e-mail is not reported in this book,” and sought to recontextualize the reporting. But as Glasser noted in her own statement, Baier’s response “does not deny the accuracy of the email we reported” or address his quote recommending that Fox project Trump as the winner of Arizona.
While Fox did try to defend Baier with an obfuscative statement, the network notably remained silent on the book’s other bombshell allegations about its handling of 2020 election calls. Baker and Glasser report that the day after the election, Fox CEO Suzanne Scott suggested that the decision desk cease calling states until the results were certified, which could have taken days or weeks, and that later that week, Wallace overruled the decision desk when it wanted to call Nevada for Biden, because that would have forced Fox to become the first major news outlet to project that Biden would win the election.
At a real news outlet, reports of high-level malfeasance, with executives interfering with the newsroom to favor a political candidate, would trigger a response – perhaps even an independent investigation.
But Fox did not issue a statement denying that these events happened or seeking to provide additional context.
Fox did not argue that Fox executives – who remain in their positions of power at the network – would never do what Baker and Glasser report.
Fox did not promise that the decision desk’s election calls would be independent in the future.
Nor did Fox address their report that two key members of the decision desk team who had defended its work had been “summarily fired,” creating an incentive structure that will favor telling convenient lies over inconvenient truths.
There seems to be nothing the network can say, so its PR team is hoping the story will simply fade away. We are left to conclude that Fox’s decision desk is an extension of its executive team. And if the network brass thinks the best way to hold on to its pro-Trump audience is to lie about election results, then that’s what Fox will do.