NEW YORK (AP) — The on-air spectacle of Fox News analyst Karl Rove publicly questioning his network's call of the election for Barack Obama happened because Rove and Fox's decision desk both had pieces to a puzzle that the other wasn't aware of, a network executive said Wednesday.
Far from an embarrassment, the incident proved Rove's value to the network as more than an analyst, said Michael Clemente, Fox News Channel executive vice president of news editorial.
Rove, former top advisor to President George W. Bush and a prominent fundraiser for Republican Mitt Romney, suggested Fox had prematurely declared Obama the winner in Ohio and thus for the election as a whole. "I'd be very cautious about intruding in this process," Rove said.
It led to Fox anchor Megyn Kelly getting up from her desk and marching down a hallway to question the off-air analysts responsible for the network's election calls.
The incident was "an odd civil war," noted Tampa Bay Times news analyst Eric Deggans.
Rove "finally had to concede to the arithmetic, but not before creating a defining image of a partisan, and a network, at war with the very reality it could not avoid reporting," wrote Time magazine critic James Poniewozik.
Fox declared Ohio for Obama because its decision desk knew that the uncounted vote at that time in the evening was in areas with overwhelming Obama support. Rove didn't know that, Clemente said. Through his own reporting, Rove saw the actual vote count narrowing to a margin below 1,000 — information the decision desk didn't know at the time.
"It all came out at once," Clemente said. "It would have been easier if it had all come out in some linear fashion, but it didn't."
Rove's information explains why it took the Romney campaign some time after the network declarations to eventually concede the race, he said.
The day after the election resulted in the usual round of post-mortems, reevaluations and recriminations. NBC was also in an awkward spot with a feud between its top news anchor, Brian Williams, and Donald Trump, star of its longtime reality series "The Apprentice."
Trump sent out a series of angry tweets Tuesday night after it became apparent that Obama had earned enough electoral votes to win the presidency, but before it became clear that he would also win the popular vote. "We should have a revolution in this country!" the real estate mogul tweeted.
He called for a march on Washington, said the country was in serious trouble and said Congress "shouldn't give anything to Obama unless he terminates Obamacare."
Williams, during NBC's election night coverage, noted the comments and said Trump had "driven well past the last exit to relevance and veered into something close to irresponsible."
Trump retaliated with tweets on Wednesday, bragging about his television ratings. "The only thing more boring than (at)bwilliams' newscast is his show Rock Center, which is totally dying in the ratings. A disaster," he wrote. Trump is filming a new season of "The Apprentice" due to air in the spring.
The sting of defeat was apparent on Wednesday within media that appealed to conservatives and Romney supporters.
After Steve Doocy on "Fox & Friends" praised Obama for saying nice things about Romney, his broadcast partner, Brian Kilmeade, said, "it took awhile."
Kilmeade also didn't understand an exit poll result that found 42 percent of the electorate considered the president's response to superstorm Sandy an important factor in their vote. Polls generally gave Obama praise for his actions.
"We're the shallowest country in the history of man," Kilmeade said. "One photo-op, walking over a two-by-four, and all of a sudden he's handling a storm, which, by the way, hasn't been handled well."
The website Breitbart.com poked fun at Obama's "Forward" theme with a headline: "Downward: Stocks crash after Obama win." A columnist, Ben Shapiro, urged Republicans not to bend to Obama's will. "The war begins now," he wrote.
The day after Obama was elected, Fox News radio reporter Todd Starnes tweeted that the first order of business should be a full investigation into the Obama administration's handling of the Sept. 11 killing of Americans in Libya, "followed by impeachment proceedings."
Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the watchdog Media Research Center, said there is likely to be a lot of anger among conservatives, particularly given the closeness of the election. The same would have been true of Democrats had Obama lost, he said.
"If you watch a football game and your team is down by three touchdowns, you're more angry at your team," he said. "If it's a two-point game, you're mad at the referees. There's going to be a lot of anger at the media."
Wednesday's immediate target for criticism was MSNBC's Chris Matthews for comments saying he was "glad" for Sandy because it turned out to be good politically for the president. Matthews clarified himself later to make clear he wasn't talking about the storm's horrific damage to life and property, and was glad it led to bipartisan cooperation between Obama and Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
One conservative columnist, Matt K. Lewis of The Daily Caller, suggested that conservative media figures should also look inward.
"It's time for conservative talking heads — many of whom misled their readers and audiences the last few weeks — to think more about the future of conservatism than about their own personal popularity," he wrote.
Fox is owned by News Corp.; MSNBC is a unit of Comcast Corp.
AP Television Writer Frazier Moore contributed to this report.