A key player in Fox News’ decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden on election night who came under fire from Donald Trump before losing his job has defended his role in the drama.
“I was proud of our being first to project that Joe Biden would win Arizona,” former Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt wrote for the Los Angeles Times, “and very happy to defend that call in the face of a public backlash egged on by former President Trump.
“Being right and beating the competition is no act of heroism; it’s just meeting the job description of the work I love.”
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.
“When I defended the call for Biden in the Arizona election, I became a target of murderous rage from consumers who were furious at not having their views confirmed.”
Stirewalt left Fox News last week. The company said it had “realigned its business and reporting structure to meet the demands of this new era”. In the LA Times, Stirewalt referred to “my firing last week”.
Trump, it has been widely reported, reacted furiously to the call on election night, which Fox News made first, surprising even its own anchors, and did not retract despite White House pressure. The Associated Press followed hours later but other outlets did not call Arizona for Biden for days. By then, Pennsylvania had given the Democrat victory in the electoral college.
Arizona became one state subject to Trump’s efforts to overturn announced results – efforts repeatedly thrown out of court but in support of which a pro-Trump mob attacked the US Capitol in Washington on 6 January.
Graffiti including “Murder the Media” was found inside the Capitol, where some rioters reportedly searched for lawmakers to kidnap or kill. Five people died, one a police officer struck with a fire extinguisher.
“The lie that Trump won the 2020 election wasn’t nearly as much aimed at the opposing party as it was at the news outlets that stated the obvious, incontrovertible fact,” Stirewalt wrote.
He said he was “confident that the current depredations of the digital revolution will pass, just as those of the telegraph, radio and broadcast television did”.
But he added: “What tugs at my mind after seeing a mob of enthusiastic ignoramuses sack the Capitol, though, is whether that sophistication will come quickly enough when outlets have the means to cater to every unhealthy craving of their consumers.”