FOX News: What occurred?

The dismal performance of FOX News on election night put an exclamation point on the descent of the network into the trough of antipathy and distrust conservatives relegate its competitors. One can infer that FOX News is disturbed by the reaction of conservative media outside the network’s circle to the network’s election night pratfalls (to put it charitably).

Consider the number of respectable conservative pundits who are tongue-tied by virtue of their contractual relationship with FOX News as contributors. Their public silence is inherent in their relationship, but is there any conservative outlet or pundit not on the payroll who hasn’t spoken up to observe the miasma at the network?

Eight days after the election, a week or so after it became obvious it had blown its call of a net pickup of at least five Dem seats in the House, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum both recited an embarrassingly pallid confession that their so-called Decision Desk got it wrong. They put it this way: “That did not occur.” And this call, let us remember, was rendered while polls were still open in California, where the GOP picked up one or more seats for the first time in many years. (Christopher Gage looked back in the November 7 American Greatness column “Why Hasn’t Fox News Retracted Its Wrong Call on the House?”)

The FOX concession amounts to weasel words. The concession is somewhat less explanatory than “mistakes were made.” The executives in charge at FOX must think that their remaining viewers are dolts and fools.

Shelby Talcott posts the videos of Baier and MacCallum in the Daily Caller report here. Talcott quotes Baier’s version of the acknowledgement:

“Democrats have clinched a majority in the House by reaching 218 seats. There are still a handful of races undecided,” Baier said. “On election night, the FOX News Decision Desk correctly predicted soon after 9:00 Eastern that Democrats would retain control of the House.”

“But they also estimated Democrats would add about five seats to their majority. That did not occur. Republicans have gained six seats with multiple races yet to be decided,” he continued on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

John Nolte comments at Breitbart in the disgusted column “Disgraced Fox News Retracts False House Race Projection — 8 Days Later!” Nolte concludes with the harsh judgment: “Only suckers watch Fox News.” And Nicholas Waddy takes up FOX’s Arizona call about which I have been writing in the American Greatness column “The death of Fox News.”

As of this morning, by the way, RealClearPolitics counts a net GOP gain of 8 House seats with 7 races yet to be called. The net GOP gain should creep higher, but 8 is a resonant number in this context. Query why it took FOX News 8 days to acknowledge reality — and then to do so in the weasel words quoted above.

With its weasel words FOX News has aggravated its pitiful election-night performance. The network owes its remaining viewers some candid and serious reckoning beyond a simple acknowledgement of reality. We already knew they blew it. Short of such an accounting, the trust the network had worked to earn in years past is gone.

Early yesterday I wrote FOX News senior corporate communications executive Irena Briganti:

Dear Ms. Briganti: I write for the site Power Line (powerlineblog.com), a widely read site with a conservative orientation. I have been calling for an explanation of the Decision Desk’s call of Arizona for Biden with 800,000 votes outstanding on the assurance that the remaining votes would widen Biden’s lead, and on the Decisions Desk’s call that Democrats would pick up five seats in the House (while polls were still open in California). Both of these calls appear to have been predicated on wildly erroneous analysis. They seem to me to call for an explanation.

In the first case, so far as I am aware, FOX News has said nothing other than providing Arnon Mishkin’s assurance that he stands by his call. In the second case, Bret Baier acknowledged the error [Wednesday] night without any explanation.

Can you give me any comment on the question whether FOX News believes it owes its viewers an explanation and whether one will be provided?

Thank you for your courtesies and consideration.
Scott Johnson
St. Paul, Minnesota

I didn’t expect a response and haven’t received one. Nevertheless, I stand by my call!

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