Fox is kicking off its upfronts season with a pitch highlighting network executives and program anchors and hosts who were complicit in the network’s spread of lies about voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Fox News is struggling to contain the fallout from an ongoing $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems that has publicly revealed the deliberate dishonesty inside the network regarding the 2020 presidential election.
An AdWeek article headlined “Fox News Media Focuses on Lifestyle Offerings in Upfront Pitch” summarized the network’s pre-upfronts pitch to advertisers, which kicked off Tuesday. A wide range of Fox figures are expected to speak at the presentation, including Jeanine Pirro, Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Dana Perino, CEO Suzanne Scott, and President Jay Wallace, all of whom were either directly involved or complicit in the deceit alleged by Dominion in the lawsuit.
Jeff Collins, Fox News’ executive vice president of advertising, told AdWeek that the lawsuit “has not impacted strategy, even though a leading advertising executive recently said the network presents “a moral hazard for advertisers.”
Fox has been leaning on its so-called “lifestyle” content since last year’s upfronts in an attempt to cover up the toxic stench of its extreme and dishonest on-air content. But the AdWeek article also says Fox is “gearing up for the presidential election,” touting anchors Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, and Shannon Bream as leading the coverage, in addition to the Decision Desk.
Here are the executives, anchors, and hosts featuring in Fox’s pre-upfronts advertising pitch who were complicit in the network’s spread of election lies:
Bret Baier & Martha MacCallum
Collins named Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum in the upfront announcement as part of the team returning to election coverage in 2023; both will speak on a panel on what to expect out of Fox’s election coverage.
Emails obtained through the Dominion filings show Baier encouraged rescinding Fox’s call that 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.”
In the days following the election, Baier and MacCallum argued that “viewer reaction should be considered” when making election decisions on the network. MacCallum argued that “in a Trump environment the game is just very, very different” and told CEO Suzanne Scott that there is “a layer between statistics and news judgment about timing that I think is a factor” in calling election results.
In private correspondence revealed by the Dominion legal filings, Baier acknowledged two days after the election, “There is NO evidence of fraud. None.” Baier even told Fox News senior vice president Bill Sammon that the network needed to “fact check” his colleagues' claims about the election.
Jeanine Pirro, along with her The Five co-hosts Dana Perino, Jesse Watters, Jessica Tarlov, and Greg Gutfeld, will host a panel on how advertisers are currently seeing a “return on investment” with Fox. Pirro was a prolific misinformer on Fox regarding the 2020 election results.
Immediately following the 2020 election, Fox canceled Pirro’s November 7 show because they did not trust her to cover the election results. Pirro’s own producers thought she was “nuts,” and Tucker Carlson producer Justin Wells called Pirro “crazy.” Fox senior vice president David Clark asserted, “Her guests are all going to say the election is being stolen and if she pushes back at all it will just be token.” Clark also acknowledged that Pirro was not a “credible source of news.”
Pirro’s show was back on the air on November 14 and she quickly proved them right by immediately spreading false claims about Dominion voting machines and the results of the 2020 election. In December 2020, Pirro hosted QAnon figurehead and conspiracy theorist Mike Flynn after Rupert Murdoch suggested the network use him as a contributor. Flynn used the opportunity to call on governors not to certify the election results, and Pirro suggested disgraced Trump lawyer Sydney Powell might be “on to something” with her election fraud conspiracies.
Though her broadcasts were eventually cited in the Dominion legal filings against Fox, Pirro received a promotion and is now a co-host of the network's most-watched show, The Five.
Slated to give opening remarks at the advertising pitch, CEO Suzanne Scott prevails in the filings as a major figure coordinating between the Murdochs and on-air personalities regarding the network’s promotion of election lies.
They make clear that Scott was willing to attack Fox staffers who pushed back against election denial because of the perception that they were driving away viewers. After prime-time hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity complained that reporter Jacqui Heinrich fact-checked a Trump tweet accusing Dominion of helping steal the election, Scott told fellow executives Jay Wallace and Irena Briganti that Hannity was “not happy about this and doesn’t understand how this is allowed to happen from anyone in news. She [Heinrich] has serious nerve doing this.” According to AdWeek, the pre-upfronts event will take place in the studio where Hannity films.
On November 19, 2020, Dana Perino said on air that the press conference held by then-Trump attorneys and election conspiracy theorists Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell could allow Dominion to “take some sort of action” in court, resulting in Scott “‘screaming about Dana’s show and their reaction to the Rudy presser,’” adding, “The audience feels like we crapped on [them] and we have damaged their trust and belief in us…We can fix this but we cannot smirk at our viewers any longer.”
In December 2020, Scott also sent a personal gift to QAnon benefactor and election denier Mike Lindell — a major advertiser on the network — to win back his favor after Lindell called Fox News “garbage” on Newsmax.
In January 2021, in the aftermath of the Capitol riot, Scott directed PR chief Irena Briganti to gather evidence on whether it was “unarguable that high profile Fox voices fed the story that the election was stolen and that January 6th an important chance to have the results overturned.” Briganti returned dozens of examples.
In her deposition, when asked if “Joe Biden was legitimately elected the President of the United States,” Scott replied, “Yes, I believe that.”
At a recent industry conference, Lachlan Murdoch praised Scott for her “tremendous job” leading the network. But Fox employees have bashed her, with one saying she was “clearly not looking out for the news side” and asking, “How can we all continue to work for her?! How can anyone watching Fox for news believe that they’re gonna get news if she’s in charge?”
Fox News President Jay Wallace, also involved in Fox’s dishonest efforts to win back viewers, will, according to AdWeek, moderate the upcoming election year panel with Baier, MacCallum, and Bream. The filing shows Wallace texting with Scott about Newsmax shortly after the election, calling it “truly … an alternative universe,” though “it can’t be ignored.” Scott agreed, after which Wallace said that he is “trying to get everyone to comprehend we are on war footing” with Newsmax.
Wallace privately held contempt for election lies, saying that “the North Koreans do a more nuanced show” than election denier Lou Dobbs. After a Fox anchor suggested that the network buy right-wing social media app Parler, Wallace said: “We can barely contain [Lou] Dobbs — imagine all the crazy we’d be responsible for.”
Wallace overrode the decision from newsroom leader Bill Sammon to call Nevada, which would decide the entire election, for Biden. That decision came after Baier told him that Fox’s call of Arizon for Biden was “hurting us” and pressed him to “pull” the Arizona call and “put it back in his [Trump’s] column.”
The Five co-host and America’s Newsroom anchor Dana Perino, who is expected to be in an upfront panel along with her Five co-hosts, called allegations of voter fraud “total bs,” “insane,” and “nonsense” while the network continued to air bogus claims about the 2020 election.
Perino also used her “straight news” show, America’s Newsroom, to cover a meeting between the Trump campaign and the Arizona state legislature where the campaign spread conspiracy theories and lies about the election.
Fox’s day in court looms
Tuesday morning, when Fox meteorologist Janice Dean disclosed on air that the pre-upfronts event was happening, Dominion's motion for summary judgment was being heard in a Delaware courtroom. Assuming the judge does not grant the motion, a trial would follow— one in which Dominion plans to call top Fox executives and board members includingPaul Ryan, Viet Dinh, Lachlan Murdoch, and Rupert Murdoch to testify.
TV media, including Fox News, are now kicking off the 2023 upfronts season, during which they hope to sell a large portion of their advertising inventory for the upcoming calendar year. Advertising buyers should be aware of the extent to which Fox will sacrifice the truth in exchange for dangerous right-wing conspiracies, creating a major brand threat for its client companies. For more information, click here.