In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Fox News anchor Bret Baier raised concerns over the network’s election night declaration that President Joe Biden had won Arizona. Recently obtained text messages between Baier and former Fox News host Tucker Carlson revealed that Carlson urged Baier to explain the decision-making process on air and interview Arnon Mishkin, who led the network’s decision desk. Despite many other news outlets holding off, Fox News was the first to call the Grand Canyon State for Biden.
Bret Baier, who is not known for being an overtly political figure among Fox News’ audience, told Tucker Carlson in a text message exchange, “But I may say I wouldn’t have made the call when we did. But we did.” The decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden on election night was a surprise to many, and some within Fox News also found the situation unusual.
According to the Daily Beast, Carlson and Baier exchanged these texts because they were both uneasy about the decision made by Fox News.:
Carlson: “I continue to think the company isn’t taking the [sic] seriously enough. We need to do something to reassure our core audience. They’re our whole business model.”
Carlson: “Is there some way I could help? Obviously I’d never do anything without full approval from the top.”
“Do we have a plan for this? We could lose our audience,” he wrote.
Baier: “We have been pushing for answers. I have pressed them to slow. And I think they will slow walk Nevada. The votes don’t come in until tomorrow.”
Carlson: “Please let me know if they don’t seem to be obeying,” he wrote. “We could really f**k up a lot of what we’ve built.”
Carlson floated the idea of interviewing Decision Desk director Arnon Mishkin on his own program. “But maybe you come on to walk us through it? Viewers trust you. Or maybe he interview Mishkin? I’m open. But again I want to help. Let me know,” Carlson wrote.
Baier: “Arnon would be good. For YOU to grill him. But I have had him on a bunch. I am happy to do it. But may say I wouldn’t have made the call when we did. But we did.”
Carlson implored Baier and others to “see if there’s any way I could help calm viewers down. When Trump loses, he’s going to blame us. That’s going to be very bad.”
Carlson: “I’ve got four more years here. I’m stuck with Fox. Got to do whatever I can to keep our numbers up and our viewers happy.”
According to Breitbart:
Fox News’s quick call established a dissonance of sorts. Former President Donald Trump voters would tune into establishment outlets and mainstream outlets, in which their trust had waned over the years, and hear the Arizona race was still alive. When they tuned into Fox, the go-to network for conservative viewers for years, they were told Trump lost the crucial southwest swing state.
The Daily Beast reports having obtained texts, which were included in the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit against Fox News, between Carlson and Baier in the days after the election.
Carlson texted Baier on November 5, noting that he did not think the company understood the gravity of the situation, seemingly fearing that viewers would lose trust and abandon Fox News. One suggestion Carlson made was for Baier to explain the decision-making process on Tucker Carlson Tonight, with another being an interview with Mishkin – which did not materialize.
In a statement to the Daily Beast, a Fox News spokesperson wrote:
FOX News stood by the Arizona call despite intense scrutiny. Given the extremely narrow 0.3% margin and a new projection mechanism that no other network had, it’s hardly surprising there would be postmortem discussions surrounding the call and how it was executed, no matter the candidates.”
With just an estimated 73 percent of the vote tabulated, Fox News became the first network to declare Arizona for President Joe Biden during the 2020 election, despite the narrow margin between him and then-President Donald Trump. The decision sparked suspicion and confusion, as it remains unclear what led Fox News to make the call so early. Ultimately, Biden won Arizona by less than 0.3% of the vote, cementing the state’s shift from red to blue.