Chris Stirewalt, the former politics editor of Fox News Channel, penned an op ed published on Thursday for the Los Angeles Times in which he defended calling Arizona for Joe Biden on election night, a call that set off Donald Trump and pushback and even “murderous rage” from his supporters.
Stirewalt said in the op ed that he was fired from Fox News last week, in what the network said was a restructuring of its digital division.
In the op ed, Stirewalt did not criticize Fox News directly but the business generally, suggesting that the push among executives and producers is to stir emotions.
“What is still relatively new is a marketplace that offers penalties for reporting the news but lots of rewards for indulging a consumer’s worst cravings,” he wrote. “Cable news producers work in a world of 15-minute increments in which their superiors can track even tiny changes in viewership.”
He added, “The rebellion on the populist right against the results of the 2020 election was partly a cynical, knowing effort by political operators and their hype men in the media to steal an election or at least get rich trying. But it was also the tragic consequence of the informational malnourishment so badly afflicting the nation.”
He wrote that the reaction to calling Arizona – based on data from the network Decision Desk – was “murderous rage from consumers who were furious at not having their views confirmed.” The call was the first major sign on election night that Trump would lose, as it gave Biden multiple paths to win the electoral college. The Associated Press also made the same call that evening, but other networks did not follow that night. Yet they were correct: Biden edged out Trump in the state.
Stirewalt lamented a landscape where media outlets are more dedicated to feeding their viewers with “self-validating coverage” rather than dispassionate reporting.
“While there is still a lucrative market for a balanced offering of news and opinion at high-end outlets, much of the mainstream is increasingly bent toward flattery and fluff,” he wrote. “Most stories are morally complicated and don’t have white hats and black hats. Defeats have many causes and victories are never complete. Reporting these stories requires skill and dispassion. But hearing them requires something of consumers, too: Enough humility to be open to learning something new.”
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