Donald Trump and his fans are livid at Fox News, the favourite news channel of the incumbent US president. On Wednesday night, several hundred Trump supporters gathered outside Maricopa Records Office in the state of Arizona and shouted slogans against Fox, the right-leaning cable news channel owned by the Murdoch family. Trump himself voiced his unhappiness with Fox on Tuesday night in the short speech in which he announced a premature victory which now increasingly seems impossible. In last 24 hours, several Fox reporters have complained on-air that they were facing severe flak — “pushback was a mild term” as one described it.
What has caused this latest and seemingly strongest ever spar between Fox News and Trump is the decision by the channel to call Arizona for Democratic candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday night when more than a million votes were still to be counted and Biden was leading by 1.8 lakh votes.
What’s happening in Arizona?
The state, located on the country’s southern border with Mexico, contributes 11 electoral votes. Traditionally, it goes in the Republican kitty with the state having voted for a Democratic presidential candidate only once since 1952 (Bill Clinton in 1996). This year, the state was being seen as one of the battleground states with opinion polls giving Biden a thin edge over Trump.
On election night, as the results started trickling in, Biden took an early lead which he maintained and built up on throughout the night. At 11.30 pm on Tuesday, when 73 per cent votes in Arizona had been counted, Fox called Arizona for Biden before any other major news network when the Democratic candidate was leading with 6.5 percentage points (1.88 lakh votes) over Trump. Many saw the race as too close to call owing to expected gains in later part of the count as ballots in counties with strong Republican support are counted.
Arnon Mishkin, director of Fox News Decision Desk, explained the decision shortly after the projection, by saying, “ We made it after a half-hour of debating. Is it time yet? It’s been clear for a while that the former vice-president is in the lead in Arizona and is most likely to win the state. It was in the category what we call ‘knowable but not callable’ for about an hour. We finally called it now. There are some outstanding votes in Arizona but most of them come from Maricopa where Biden is currently in a very strong position and many of them are mail-in votes where we know from our voters’ analysis that Biden has an advantage. I’m sorry the president is not going to be able to take over and win enough votes to eliminate that 7-point lead that the former vice president has.”
Since then the lead has narrowed considerably as absentee votes started to be counted. On Thursday 3.16 am (1.46 pm in India), when 86 per cent votes ballots had been counted, Biden’s lead over Trump had come down to 2.4 per cent (68,000 votes), although he was still expected to win the state.
The unsteady love affair between Fox and Trump
From Sean Hannity to Laura Ingraham, Trump has several fans in the conservative-friendly news network. Since his election to the White House, he made regular calls to ‘Fox & Friends’, the morning show on the network, like it was his morning ritual. He often tweeted the comments and news stories from the network, agreeing with his worldview.
From early 2019, things changed as he started facing the heat over the Ukraine scandal and the construction of the US-Mexico border wall. He often criticised Fox’s new coverage and editorial comments. His retorts became more acerbic in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic and the presidential race, although he continued to grant call-ins and interviews to the network more often than others.
“The New @FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!,” he tweeted on August 28, 2019. 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
On Election Day, he said on ‘Fox & Friends’: “Fox has changed a lot. Somebody said, ‘What’s the biggest difference between this and four years ago?’ I say, ‘Fox.’” Trump has hinted several times that he intends to start his own news and opinion channel that will be a response to “fake news CNN” but hasn’t provided any details of the plan.
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