The Trump campaign, with the help of Fox News’ right-wing opinion stars, quickly jumped to criticize the Fox News Decision desk after it called the pivotal swing state of Arizona for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday night—a victory that would open up a potentially easier path for the ex-veep to defeat President Donald Trump.
Almost immediately after the network called the Grand Canyon State for Biden, the president’s senior campaign adviser Jason Miller took to Twitter to rail against the Trump-friendly network. “WAY too soon to be calling Arizona...way too soon,” he wrote. “We believe over 2/3 of those outstanding Election Day voters are going to be for Trump. Can’t believe Fox was so anxious to pull the trigger here after taking so long to call Florida. Wow.”
The call occurred following a number of close states tilting towards Trump, setting up a made-for-cable news narrative that the president could be on his way to another 2016-like surprise victory. With Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer at the big board, going over potential victory scenarios for both candidates, the network suddenly made the decision.
“Did we just call it? Did we make a call in Arizona?” he stammered, noting that the network’s number-crunchers had also projected that Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) would lose to Democratic opponent Mark Kelly.
After chief political anchor Bret Baier noted that “this is big,” the entire Fox News election team discussed on-air how the call would completely shake up the race, as it allowed for more pathways for Biden to win outright. Eventually, the anchors even brought on Fox News political director Chris Stirewalt to explain the network political team’s decision, which he said was based on projected votes remaining in the state and where they were located.
Nevertheless, Team Trump and some of the network’s own stars cried foul.
Former White House press secretary and current Fox News contributor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, for example, criticized the network’s call while on the air. “I’m still not sure if that was a premature call,” she told Baier when asked how the Trump camp was handling losing the state. “Some people think that might have been a little bit early.”
Fox News primetime host and unofficial Trump adviser Tucker Carlson expressed skepticism about the call, saying that he’s “not privy to the math” and didn’t trust the decision even after Stirewalt’s explanation.
“I think our viewers trust us, but people are concerned,” Carlson said.
Appearing on-air a bit later to defend his team’s call, Arnon Mishkin got a bit testy when Baier repeatedly asked him if he was “100-percent sure,” despite all the pushback from the Trump campaign.“Yes,” he snapped. “We made the correct call and that is why we made the correct call when we made it. I’m sorry!”
Prior to the election, Mishkin was asked by the Los Angeles Times how he would handle Trump surrogates and his own pro-Trump Fox colleagues contradicting his team’s decisions.
“That is not something we’ve discussed,” he said at the time.