Trump and his supporters continue to be in denial that he has lost the election and claim that the election was stolen from him, despite the almost complete absence of evidence. As is usually the case, the losing side is looking around for the villains who contributed to this situation and they have taken aim at Fox News, despite the fact that the network has long been been a faithful mouthpiece for Trump, with their talk shows giving him complete freedom to utter nonsense and amplifying his efforts to spread hate and division. Fox viewers were the largest part of Trump’s support, dwarfing in numbers other Trump-supporting outlets like One America News Network, Newsmax, and Breitbart.
What has specifically earned their recent ire is that Fox News, along with the AP, were the first to call Arizona for Joe Biden, doing so late on Tuesday night itself. That call, though it did not put Biden over the top of 270 electoral votes, still brought him to 264, close enough that it was all over bar the shouting, since it was expected that Nevada with its six EVs would go for Biden too. That would make all the other as yet uncalled races in Pennsylvania and Georgia moot.
Other news outlets, however, refrained from calling Arizona for Biden, claiming that there was enough uncertainty in the uncounted votes in the state to allow it to go for Trump. In fact, no other network has as yet called Arizona, and Biden’s lead in the state has steadily shrunk from over 40,000 to currently about 14,000. Neither Fox nor AP have reversed their calls, suggesting that they still think Biden has won the state. Since Pennsylvania with its 20 EVs and Nevada have since been called for Biden, that means that Arizona’s results will not affect the final outcome since he already has 279 without it. If Georgia with its 16 EVs also goes for Biden, that would give Biden 295 EVs, even without Arizona.
But Trump and his supporters are furious, suggesting that the early call somehow lost them the race, though how they think that might have happened is unclear, since the call was made after voting was over and could not affect results in other states. Gabriel Sherman writes that there are reportedly even splits within the Murdoch family about how to proceed.
Robert Mackey writes that Fox is trying to have it both ways in a Jekyll-and-Hyde manner.
So while the sun is out this week, afternoon news anchors like Bill Hemmer and Neil Cavuto seem to be preparing their viewers for the inevitable Biden presidency to come. The hosts of Fox’s election-week coverage, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, now refer to Biden as the president-elect. All of the dayside anchors report that Biden has insurmountable leads in both key Electoral College states and the national popular vote, and remind viewers that there is no evidence that “illegal votes” were cast or counted in large enough numbers to overturn the result.
But when the sun sets, Trump’s wildest claims of fraud are given credence by the shouting heads who host the network’s primetime lineup of opinion shows — Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham — as well as the pre-dawn cast of “Fox and Friends.”
The sharp difference in how Fox News describes the election results from morning to night can induce a sense of whiplash in viewers who keep the channel on all day, who watch as it transitions from daytime news programs to evening opinion shows.
Will this dual-track strategy work? Who knows? Their efforts to maintain that they are a straight news and not a propaganda network was always a stretch but they have few other options.