Texts Reveal How Carlson, Baier Really Felt About Fox's Infamous Ariz. Election Call in 2020 - Report


Fox News obviously went out on a limb on election night 2020 when it called Arizona for Joe Biden well before other media outlets and with only an estimated 73 percent vote count.

Both then-Fox commentator Tucker Carlson and chief political anchor Bret Baier were concerned about the early call and how it could damage Fox’s credibility with its largely conservative audience, according to The Daily Beast.

The controversial projection showed Biden winning with 53.2 percent of the vote, compared to Donald Trump’s 45.6 percent.

But as it turned out, Biden took Arizona’s 11 electoral votes by a margin of just three-tenths of a percent or about 10,500 votes.

Text messages involved in the recent Fox settlement with Dominion Voting Systems showed Carlson on election night writing to Fox CEO Suzanne Scott about his concern for the network “getting hammered” for the early call, prompting Trump supporters to go elsewhere.

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Scott replied: “We need to continue to be transparent about the call — let the data folks defend their decision.”

“Amen. I strongly agree,” Carlson said. “But if I can help in any way, I hope you’ll let me know,” the Daily Beast reported.

The next day Carlson texted Baier to say he did not think Fox was taking the situation seriously.

“We need to do something to reassure our core audience,” according to Carlson. “They’re our whole business model.”

Did Fox make the right decision to call Arizona for Biden?

Saying he would not do anything without buy-in from top management, Carlson asked Baier: “Is there some way I could help?”

Carlson and Baier texted about how they might slow down Fox election calls for other states, the Daily Beast said.

Without those delays “We could really f*** up a lot of what we’ve built,” Carlson texted, apparently a reference to the network’s credibility.

“I totally agree,” Baier responded, noting that if other networks made first calls on critical states like Georgia or Pennsylvania it would provide Fox with some cover for its early call for Arizona.

Baier said he had emailed both Scott and Fox News President Jay Wallace about rescinding the Arizona call for Biden.

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Baier noted he was taking intense criticism for the Arizona call. Carlson responded that he did not want to make things worse, but asked for Baier and others to determine how Carlson might “help calm viewers down.”

“When Trump loses, he’s going to blame us. That’s going to be very bad,” Carlson said, the Daily Beast reported.

Baier and Carlson discussed how the Arizona call could be destructive to them. “I’ve got four more years here,” according to Carlson.

“I’m stuck with Fox. Got to do whatever I can to keep our numbers up and our viewers happy,” he said, to which Baier replied: “Yes.”

In retrospect, it seems Carlson and Baier were concerned about the credibility of Fox News with its conservative audience, something now standing out in the wake of Carlson’s firing from the network.

Ratings for Carlson’s 8 p.m. Eastern time slot have shrunk by half and, in light of another almost simultaneous corporate mistake, the network is now being dubbed “Foxweiser.”

Fox’s credibility was undercut election night with the early Arizona call, with doubts then voiced on the network by former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and political consultant Karl Rove, and on CNN by former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania).

The call prompted Baier’s election night on-air grilling of Arnon Mishkin of the Fox decision desk: “Arizona. Are you 100 percent sure of that call and when you made it and why did you make it?”

To which Mishkin replied: “Absolutely. We made it after basically a half hour of debating it — is it time yet? Because it’s been clear for a while that the former vice president is in the lead in Arizona and most likely to win the state.

“It has been in the category that we call ‘knowable but not callable’ for about an hour,” according to Mishkin on election night 2020.

And yet, it was the liberal New York Times that would not call it for more than a week, according to Breitbart.

It looks like Carlson and Baier were onto something regarding the Fox News call and its reflection on the network’s credibility.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.