Fox News chief political anchor Bret Baier wanted to “give into” then-President Donald Trump’s demands that the network reverse its correct 2020 election night call of Joe Biden winning Arizona, reportedly telling executives they should “put it back” in Trump’s “column.”
According to the new book The Divider, Baier emailed Fox News president Jay Wallace and noted that the “Trump campaign was really pissed” about the channel’s vaunted Fox News Decision Desk’s projection of Arizona, adding that the situation was “really uncomfortable” because he personally keeps “having to defend this on air.” This detail from veteran journalists Peter Baker and Susan Glasser was first reported by Insider.
Baier, the face of Fox’s “straight news” division, then made the following plea to Wallace: “The sooner we pull it—even if it gives us major egg—and we put it back in his column the better we are in my opinion.”
What made this statement “stunning,” as The Divided authors noted, is that Trump was never in the lead in Arizona, even as his margin narrowed following the election.
“The leading news anchor for Fox was pushing not just to say Arizona was too close to call but to pretend that the president had won it,” wrote Baker and Glasser.
Despite the pressure from the Trump White House, the network stood by its Arizona decision—though Fox would eventually fire longtime political editor Chris Stirewalt who defended the decision desk’s call. (The network framed the termination as a “restructuring.”) Additionally, Fox News DC managing editor Bill Sammon retired shortly after the 2020 election.
“FOX News made an election night call of historic magnitude and was first to do so,” a network spokesperson said in a statement. “We stood by the call in the days that followed, it was proven correct, and other news organizations eventually joined us.”
After the publication of this article, Baier released a statement through a Fox News spokesperson in which he claimed the characterization of his email lacked context.
“The full context of the e-mail is not reported in this book. I never said the Trump campaign 'was really pissed' - that was from an external email that I referenced within my note,” Baier said in the statement. “This was an email sent AFTER election night. In the immediate days following the election, the vote margins in Arizona narrowed significantly and I communicated these changes to our team along with what people on the ground were saying and predicting district by district. I wanted to analyze at what point (what vote margin) would we have to consider pulling the call for Biden. I also noted that I fully supported our decision desk's call and would defend it on air.”
In response to Baier’s comments, Glasser released her own statement. “We stand by the reporting in our book, and would note that his statement does not deny the accuracy of the email we reported,” Glasser wrote on Tuesday afternoon. “In addition, it’s especially notable that Baier wrote in the email that it would be better for Fox News ‘to put it [Arizona] back in [Trump’s] column.’ In fact, Arizona was never in Trump’s column.”
According to the book, while Wallace didn’t kowtow to Trump or employees like Baier when it came to Arizona, he did refuse to allow the decision desk to call Nevada for Biden even after other networks did as he “did not want Fox to be the first to call the election and declare Biden president-elect.”
Immediately after Fox News made its pivotal Arizona call, which blew apart Trump’s plans to quickly declare victory on election night, several Fox News stars questioned and undermined the network’s on-air projection. Furthermore, Trump and his allies raged against the conservative cable giant, prompting MAGA fans to chant “Fox News sucks” and the network’s ratings to briefly plunge.
Trump, meanwhile, still had not stopped fuming about Fox News accurately calling Arizona for his opponent. Speaking to Fox’s far-right copycat Newsmax last year, he whined about Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott confirming that the decision desk head Arnon Mishkin was set to return for both the 2022 and 2024 elections.
“I think it’s terrible that they hired him back,” he grumbled. “He made a terrible call, it was a terrible thing to do.”