Fox News bosses scolded reporters who challenged false election claims

Fox News bosses scolded reporters who challenged false election claims

The Washington Post reports:

As a reporter and an anchor for Fox News watched Donald Trump supporters gather at a rally in Washington, D.C., after his election defeat in November 2020, they both had some questions.

Many in the crowd, said correspondent Rich Edson, “are picking up on the president’s unfounded claim that there was widespread electoral interference and that the election was stolen — no proof of that.”

“What do these folks want?” wondered weekend anchor Leland Vittert. “Is it that they really believe that there’s a chance President Trump gets a second term, or are they more just trying to complain that things aren’t fair?”

When Lachlan Murdoch, the head of Fox News’s parent company, learned of this on-air exchange, he was displeased.

“News guys have to be careful how they cover this rally,” Murdoch wrote in a message to Fox News’s CEO, according to a recently revealed trove of internal documents. “The narrative should be this is a huge celebration of the president.” He also complained that Vittert took a “smug and obnoxious” tone in his coverage, capped by a combative interview with a Trump campaign spokesperson.

Vittert got a warning from his supervisor, who “told him to cut it out,” according to company communications. Within five months, he had “mutually and amicably parted ways” with Fox News.

Murdoch’s reaction is just one of several examples revealed in recent court filings of the fierce internal backlash aimed at Fox News journalists who rebutted election fraud claims that were popular with the network’s largely pro-Trump audience. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports:

A little more than a week after television networks called the 2020 presidential election for Joseph R. Biden Jr., top executives and anchors at Fox News held an after-action meeting to figure out how they had messed up.

Not because they had gotten the key call wrong — but because they had gotten it right. And they had gotten it right before anyone else.

Typically, it is a point of pride for a news network to be the first to project election winners. But Fox is no typical news network, and in the days following the 2020 vote, it was besieged with angry protests not only from President Donald J. Trump’s camp but from its own viewers because it had called the battleground state of Arizona for Mr. Biden. Never mind that the call was correct; Fox executives worried that they would lose viewers to hard-right competitors like Newsmax.

And so, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and Jay Wallace, the network’s president, convened a Zoom meeting for an extraordinary discussion with an unusual goal, according to a recording of the call reviewed by The New York Times: How to keep from angering the network’s conservative audience again by calling an election for a Democrat before the competition.

Maybe, the Fox executives mused, they should abandon the sophisticated new election-projecting system in which Fox had invested millions of dollars and revert to the slower, less accurate model. Or maybe they should base calls not solely on numbers but on how viewers might react. Or maybe they should delay calls, even if they were right, to keep the audience in suspense and boost viewership.

“Listen, it’s one of the sad realities: If we hadn’t called Arizona, those three or four days following Election Day, our ratings would have been bigger,” Ms. Scott said. “The mystery would have been still hanging out there.”

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.” [Continue reading…]

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