Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum

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Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum failed to fact-check first GOP debate

The first 2024 Republican presidential primary debate, which was hosted Wednesday night by Fox News, was hyped as not only being a chance for the candidates to make an impression, but also as an opportunity for Fox anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum to present a serious face for the network. But during the debate itself, the two moderators repeatedly let the candidates get away with numerous false statements.

  • Republican pollster Frank Luntz predicted the two “are people of substance who will run a very tight ship without being abusive and without being nasty.” Luntz also singled out Baier as “the most important talent at Fox, because he puts the news into Fox News.” [The Washington Post, 8/22/23]
  • Baier and MacCallum have themselves been longtime vectors for misinformation from Fox. The two have each spread misinformation about the results of the 2020 election, and Baier downplayed the January 6 insurrection both during and after Trump supporters attacked the Capitol. [Media Matters, 8/21/23]
  • Baier and MacCallum argued that Fox should have let right-wing viewers’ feelings override “statistics and the numbers” in calling the election result. Baier also urged the network to retract its projection that Joe Biden had won the swing state of Arizona, despite the fact that Trump was never ahead in the vote count there. [Media Matters, 3/5/23]

With that track record, nobody should have expected the two Fox “news side” anchors to bring factual knowledge to the table at this debate, let alone to correct falsehoods from the Republican candidates that would have matched up with their audience’s desires and Fox’s own running narratives. While various mainstream news outlets fact-checked statements from the candidates, Baier and MacCallum did not attempt any such thing — and Baier even introduced a false claim into the discussion himself.

  • Baier falsely claimed that America has a “crime crisis” and that urban problems “accelerated … during the pandemic and are still rising.” Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy responded, “We have a crime wave in this country.”

  • In fact, crime is going back down after an initial rise during the pandemic, and is still near historic lows.

    • The Washington Post: “Crime spiked during the pandemic, and though rates are still higher than before the pandemic, homicides are dropping in dozens of major cities, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore.” The article also states that “an analysis by the Council on Criminal Justice found that the number of killings in the first half of 2023 fell by 9.4 percent compared with the first half of 2022.” [The Washington Post, 8/24/23]
    • “It’s worth noting that violent crime in the U.S. is at a relatively low point, historically. The latest data, from 2021, shows the violent crime rate is nearly half of what it was at its peak in the early 1990s.” [, 8/24/23]
    • Fox News previously hyped a supposed crime crisis in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections. [Media Matters, 1/9/23]
  • Ramaswamy claimed, “The climate change agenda is a hoax,” and said that “more people are dying of bad climate change policies” than from climate change.

    • “We are not aware of any deaths caused by ‘bad climate change policies,’ but the World Health Organization has said ‘climate change is already killing us.’” pointed to a World Health Organization fact sheet, noting that the impacts from climate change have led “to death and illness from increasingly frequent extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, storms and floods, the disruption of food systems, increases in zoonoses and food-, water- and vector-borne diseases, and mental health issues.” [, 8/24/23]
    • PolitiFact: “Worldwide, extreme weather disasters made worse by climate change caused more than 2 million deaths between 1970 and 2021, the World Meteorological Organization said in a May 2023 report.” In addition, “the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 600 people a year die from heat-related illnesses, although experts told PolitiFact that number is likely an undercount.” [PolitiFact, 8/23/23]
    • “‘Case closed’: 99.9% of scientists agree climate emergency caused by humans.” [The Guardian, 10/19/21]
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie claimed that Hunter Biden’s gun permit charge carries “a 10-year mandatory minimum” prison sentence.

    • CNN: A sentence of 10 years is the maximum, rather than minimum penalty for the offense. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, there is no mandatory 10-year punishment. [CNN, 8/24/23]
  • North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott claimed the Biden administration hired 87,000 IRS agents instead of staffing the Border Patrol.

    • While the Inflation Reduction Act expanded funding for the IRS to increase hiring, CNN reported that “it is already clear that the total won’t approach 87,000.” In addition, “a significant number of the hires are expected to fill the vacant posts left by retirements and other attrition, not take newly created positions.” [CNN, 8/24/23]
    • ABC News reported that “although the agency’s staff would increase, it’s key to note that over half of the IRS workforce is close to retirement.” According to the outlet, “The plan was created with that exodus in mind and aims to hire thousands of people to simply maintain current levels.” [ABC News, 8/24/23]
    • Fox News pushed this falsehood more than 200 times in two and a half weeks after the Inflation Reduction Act was introduced in August 2022. The network also falsely claimed in dozens of instances that the 87,000 new hires would all be armed. [Media Matters, 8/25/22]
  • In response to a question about the economy, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed that “we kept our state free and open” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    • ABC News: DeSantis “largely omits the closures of schools and businesses that happened under his watch.” “Seven states did not issue stay-at-home orders to their residents, but not Florida.” [ABC News, 8/24/23]
    • CNN: “DeSantis’s claim is misleading at best.” The network also pointed out: “Before he became a vocal opponent of pandemic restrictions, DeSantis imposed significant restrictions on individuals, businesses and other entities in Florida in March 2020 and April 2020; some of them extended months later into 2020. He did then open up the state, with a gradual phased approach, but he did not keep it open from the start.” [CNN, 8/24/23]
    • MacCallum and Baier neglected to point out that DeSantis’ own Department of Education closed schools for an “extended spring break” from March until reopening in August. PolitiFact reported that “DeSantis revels in his record of snubbing public health recommendations to curb COVID-19’s spread. But he largely omits the closures of schools and businesses that happened under his watch. … DeSantis' Department of Education issued a March 13, 2020, recommendation that Florida schools close their facilities for an extended spring break before lengthening the closure through the end of the school year in early June. Schools reopened in person in August 2020.” [PolitiFact, 8/23/23]
  • DeSantis falsely claimed, “In Florida, we eliminated critical race theory from our K-12 schools.”

    • PolitiFact “found no evidence that critical race theory, a broad set of ideas about racism being woven into American systems, was being taught in Florida’s K-12 schools.” It does not appear that critical race theory was ever required in K through 12 schools, given that “educators, school officials and several Florida public school districts told us [PolitiFact] that CRT has never been part of the state curriculum.” [PolitiFact, 8/23/23]
  • Scott claimed the Department of Justice was being weaponized “against political opponents, but also against parents who show up at school board meetings. … Under this DOJ, they're called domestic terrorists.”

    • Scott misrepresented a DOJ memo aimed at threats being made toward school boards, without pushback from the moderators. PolitiFact wrote, “In 2021, Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo directing the FBI to address violent threats against school board members. The memo never called concerned parents ‘domestic terrorists,’ and maintained that ‘spirited debate’ surrounding school policy is protected by the U.S. Constitution. A lawsuit against Garland also found that parents’ rights had not been violated.” [PolitiFact, 8/23/23]
    • Fox News previously hyped these false talking points more than 400 times. [Media Matters, 9/27/22]
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence claimed that the Trump administration “secured the southern border of the United States of America and reduced illegal immigration and asylum abuse by 90%.”

    • The Washington Post: “Ninety percent is a cherry-picked number, apparently comparing May 2019, the highest month for border apprehensions during the Trump administration, with April 2020, when apprehensions plunged because of lockdowns at the start of the covid pandemic.” Additionally, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection changed the way it counted apprehensions during the pandemic, making apples-to-apples comparisons difficult because the numbers were inflated by people who were expelled for health policy reasons, not just enforcement actions.” [The Washington Post, 8/24/23
  • Pence advocated for a national 15-week abortion ban, alleging that “a baby is capable of feeling pain” at that stage and that such a ban is …“supported by 70% of the American people.”

    • Pence’s team reportedly cited a biased poll sponsored by Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, an anti-abortion group. The poll primed respondents by including the claims that fetuses can feel pain at 15 weeks, a statement not universally accepted among medical experts. [PolitiFact, 8/23/23]
    • A 2022 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that “36 percent supported and 57 percent opposed a law that would make abortions legal only in the first 15 weeks of pregnancy.” More recent polls from Marquette Law School, AP-NORC, and Fox News also did not find that 70% of Americans support banning abortion at the 15-week mark. [The Washington Post, 8/24/23]
    • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists asserts on its website that “science conclusively establishes that a human fetus does not have the capacity to experience pain until after at least 24–25 weeks.” Additionally, noted that “the vast majority of abortions in the U.S. occur early in pregnancy. The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 93.1% of abortions were performed at or before 13 weeks of gestation and less than 1% were performed at or after 21 weeks.” [, 8/24/23]