How far were former president Donald Trump’s allies willing to go to help him cling to power? Fox News anchor Bret Baier wanted his network to withdraw its famous call of Arizona for Joe Biden on the 2020 presidential election night.
Arizona was never in Trump’s column.
While the margin of Trump’s defeat in the state narrowed since election night, he still trailed by more than 10,000 votes. Pressure from Trump’s campaign was cited for why the infamous swing state should be handed to Trump on air.
News of Baier’s email was contained in a new book published this week called, The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017-2021, written by Peter Baker of the New York Times and Susan Glasser of the New Yorker.
Baker and Glasser called Baier’s request “stunning”.
Baier had long insisted that he was different from other Trump-cheerleading hosts of shows within the Fox network. But he reportedly felt the pressure from the White House to rescind the Arizona call. The Fox News host reportedly sent an email saying “the Trump campaign was really pissed.”
“This situation is getting uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I keep having to defend this on air,” Baier said.
Arizona did go to Trump in 2016. Its call for Biden four years later in the 2020 election did not give Biden the White House, but it did signal Trump was in deep trouble. Accounts of his fury at the surprisingly early call by Fox News, which other networks did not follow, are legion.
Owner of Fox News Rupert Murdoch both personally approved the call and said of Trump: “Fuck him,” according to reports of the election.
While Fox News denied Murdoch’s calls, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner wrote in his own book that on election night, Murdoch told him Arizona was “not even close”.
But according to the new book, it was absolute chaos within Fox when Arizona was called in 2020.
“Turmoil” reigned at Fox News over Arizona, amid worries that rightwing rivals including Newsmax, firmly in the van for Trump, might take viewers away.
Executives reportedly freaked out when Arizona was called for Biden. Chief executive Suzanne Scott even wanted Fox News to stop calling any more states until they were certified by election authorities – a process that takes weeks.
Bill Sammon, the Washington managing editor, rejected that plan, saying: “Our enemies – and there are many – will portray this as follows: For the first time in its history, Fox News refuses to project the next president, who just happens to be the Democrat who defeated Donald Trump.”