OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
When Fox News called Arizona for Joe Biden it ended any chance of Donald Trump winning the 2020 presidential election in the eyes of the network and was so controversial that many longtime viewers of Fox News abandoned the network.
It was also so controversial that the man at the Decision Desk who made the call, Chris Stirewalt, was later fired.
But, according to a new book, the decision came from a person much higher at the network than fall guy Stirewalt, and that was the owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, Business Insider reported.
In his new book, “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency,” author Michael Wolff detailed what he said happened.
Wolff wrote that Murdoch’s son Lachlan, the CEO of Fox Corporation, got a call from the network’s election-data operation shortly after 11 p.m. ET on election night saying it was ready to declare Arizona for Biden.
The book noted that the Murdochs — who spearhead a vast right-wing media empire — had “every reason” to delay calling Arizona at the time, given Fox’s steadfast allegiance to Trump and the fact that no other network had made the call yet.
“Lachlan got his father on the phone to ask if he wanted to make the early call. His father, with signature grunt, assented, adding, ‘F— him,'” in reference to Trump, Wolff said in the book.
But Fox Media has denied the reporting in the book to Business Insider after it published the story.
“This account is completely false,” it said. “Arnon Mishkin who leads the FOX News Decision Desk made the Arizona call on election night and FOX News Media President Jay Wallace was then called in the control room. Any other version of the story is wildly inaccurate.”
It is important to note that Wolff has had issues in the past, with his previous book on the Trump administration being scrutinized by fact checkers and reporters who said that some of the details in the book did not add up.
Wolff said that when the network decided to make the call on Arizona that anchor Bill Hemmer told Trump’s lead social-media strategist, Jason Miller who had a furious response.
“Miller involuntarily rose from his seat. ‘What the f—?’ he said out loud, looking around and seeing the still-merry and untroubled faces in the Map Room,” he said.
“That’s what they’re doing. That’s what they’re going with,” Hemmer reportedly said, according to Wolff’s account.
“Who?” Miller asked.
“The election desk,” Hemmer said, adding that the network’s decision was going to be aired imminently, the book said.
In a statement to Insider, a Fox News spokesperson denied the Hemmer anecdote, saying: “This never happened and is completely untrue.”
The Trump campaign was infuriated with the decision by Fox News, according to the book.
“What the f—? How can they call this?” Trump said, Wolff reported. “We’re winning. And everybody can see we are going to win. Everybody’s calling to say that we’re winning. And then they pull this?”
In January 2021 Stirewalt appeared on MSNBC and told host Chris Hayes what it was like after the network made the call.
“We were kind of out there by ourselves, and through that process we became a focus of all of this rage, all of this anger,” he said.
“A lot of people have grown accustomed to being flattered by their news outlets,” he said.
“It was long after any calls were made that I had any idea that this was a huge deal or that people were freaking out or all that stuff,” Stirewalt said.
“I would not understand the magnitude of the anger on the right about this for some time,” he said.
“It was not just a matter that they were unhappy or disagreed with it, it was a matter of real anger and spoke to me about the depth of the problem,” he said.