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Nearly 24 hours after the Fox News Decision Desk ruled that former Vice President Joe Biden has won Arizona—a key battleground state in the 2020 presidential election—it’s unclear how many of their own colleagues at the network are ready to accept those results.
On Tuesday, Fox News projected that Biden had won the Grand Canyon State, shutting off a major avenue for President Donald Trump to reach the necessary 270 electoral college votes to secure his re-election.
But throughout the day on Wednesday, some of the network’s pro-Trump personalities seemed either oblivious or unwilling to accept their colleagues’ Arizona analysis, which was later matched by the Associated Press. (As of Wednesday evening, AP and Fox were still the only two outlets to have called Arizona for Biden. Most other outlets still considered it too close to call.)
During Wednesday afternoon’s broadcast of opinion panel show The Five, pro-Trump hosts Greg Gutfeld and Jesse Watters openly questioned their own network for projecting Arizona for Biden. Amid the Trump campaign’s repeated complaints over Fox’s Tuesday night early call for the ex-veep, Watters attempted to game out a Trump path to 270 that somehow included Arizona—despite his colleagues’ ruling that the state will go to Biden.
“But to me it comes down to three states,” Watters declared. “The constellation is Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. Donald Trump needs to win Pennsylvania and either Nevada or Pennsylvania and Arizona. Right now, Arizona, the Trump campaign believes that if they continue the count, they will be ahead by Friday.”
Gutfeld, meanwhile, took a seemingly subtler route to criticizing Fox News’ decision desk. “This isn’t about networks. it’s about an election,” he asserted. “So this race to be first and getting the greatest ratings is awesome, but at what expense?”
The following hour, during Fox News’ special election broadcast, “hard news” anchor Martha MacCallum—who had just sat in on The Five panel—repeatedly grilled the Fox News Decision Desk’s director Arnon Mishkin over the timing of his projection, resulting in yet another terse exchange in which the analyst was forced to defend his team’s work on-air. Their conversation took place right after Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh scolded MacCallum and Baier over their colleagues’ Arizona projection.
“How do you justify calling it when it’s at one percent, so early in the night?” MacCallum pressed.
“Where does the ‘one-percent’ number come from?” Mishkin fired back. “It was made at 11:20, there had been a huge dump of votes. There was roughly 80-something percent of the vote that was in when we made the call.” MacCallum’s co-anchor, Bret Baier, eventually corrected the record, pointing out that her assertion that the call was made with only one percent of the vote received was false, clarifying that the Decision Desk actually made the projection with 76 percent of the vote tallied.
All day on Fox News, meanwhile, host Bill Hemmer gamed out electoral scenarios in which Trump eked out a victory in the election (often, of course, skipping over the seemingly likelier scenarios where Biden clinches). On Tucker Carlson’s show, Hemmer acknowledged that the network had called Arizona and Trump would have an uphill climb, but repeated the campaign’s claims that they believed they still had a chance to win the state.
And during informal Trump adviser Sean Hannity's program the following hour, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blasted the network over its prediction.
“Fox should rescind that call!" DeSantis fumed. Hannity, meanwhile, did not defend the network's decision.
"Fox should rescind that call!" Ron DeSantis to Sean Hannity over the network's Arizona call, which Fox has refused to retract.
Hannity doesn't defend his network's decision. pic.twitter.com/ihHJzwo3Zj
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) November 5, 2020
Earlier on Wednesday, multiple Fox News stars seemed to parrot the Trump campaign’s line that the network’s Arizona call was premature, wrong, or worth ignoring.
Pro-Trump contributor Katie Pavlich claimed during Bill Hemmer Reports that the Trump campaign told her that they believed the president still had enough votes in Maricopa County to overcome Biden, prompting Hemmer to ask network analyst Chris Stirewalt whether Fox might ultimately reverse its call.
“I think a lot of this is them trying to prevent a narrative,” Stirewalt said, pointing out that Trump would have to massively over-perform his current pace in order to catch up to Biden’s likely final tally. “Because with Arizona off the table for them, with Wisconsin off the table for them, the road is very narrow."
Chief White House correspondent John Roberts also appeared to dismiss the network’s own decision when he reacted to Michigan reportedly falling to Biden by including Arizona in a list of potential states Trump could still pick up. “Michigan goes to Biden,” he tweeted on Wednesday afternoon. “At the moment, @realDonaldTrump only path to victory is to win AZ, GA, NC and PA.”
Fox News stars also publicly undermining the network’s Arizona call throughout Wednesday—even as the decision desk has repeatedly said it will not retract its forecast—was a mere continuation of how several Fox personalities questioned the call on-air late Tuesday night.
Primetime host Tucker Carlson, for example, hinted that he didn’t trust the call, noting that he was “not privy to the math” and that “people are concerned.” At the same time, former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—now a Fox contributor—suggested it was a “premature call” and that “some people think that might have been a little bit early.”
After the call itself was made live on-the-air on Tuesday night, Baier grilled Mishkin on whether he was “100-percent sure” about the decision, prompting the decision desk chief to snap back: “Yes. We made the correct call and that is why we made the correct call when we made it. I’m sorry!”
“You don’t have to be sorry,” Baier replied.
Fox’s own personalities criticizing the Arizona call echoed the concerns of the Trump campaign, which reportedly fumed late Tuesday evening about the decision and, according to The New York Times, prompted advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner to put in a call to Fox mogul Rupert Murdoch late at night.