Fired political editor Chris Stirewalt accuses Fox News of inciting ‘black-helicopter-level paranoia and hatred’ in new book

Fired Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt — one of the people responsible for the network’s early call of Arizona for Joe Biden in the 2020 election — has accused his former employer of radicalizing the right and inciting “black-helicopter-level paranoia and hatred” in his new book, “Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back.”

The New York Times’ Jeremey W. Peters discusses the book, which is set to be released next week, in the latest edition of The Times’ “On Politics” newsletter, and, while he characterizes it as “an often candid reflection on the state of political journalism” while he was at Fox News, the quotes he highlights read more like a narcissistic attack on the network that let him go.

“I got canned after very vocal and very online viewers — including the then-president of the United States — became furious when our Decision Desk was the first to project that Joe Biden would win the former G.O.P. stronghold of Arizona in 2020,” Stirewalt writes.

Fox News made the controversial call for Biden at 11:20 p.m., long before the other networks joined in, and in the midst of his glowing review of Stirewalt’s manuscript, Peters reveals his obvious bias.

“Coming at 11:20 p.m., well before the other networks declared that Biden would win the state, the Fox call was extremely controversial and consequential. It infuriated Donald Trump and threw a wrench into his attempt to falsely declare himself the winner of the 2020 election. He ordered his campaign aides to demand that Fox retract the call, to no avail,” Peters writes. “Despite the pressure to reverse its decision, and the ratings crash Fox suffered in the next few weeks after Trump urged people to watch other networks, the network didn’t buckle because the Decision Desk analysts insisted that the data backed up their projections. And they were right.”

Following the call, which did indeed infuriate many Fox News viewers, Stirewalt was given his walking papers in January 2021 after more than a decade with the network. Fox claimed it had nothing to do with his work at the Decision Desk and was merely the result of restructuring.

Naturally, Stirewalt believes it had more to do with his determination to be a good and honest journalist and the ignorance and egos of Fox News viewers.

“Even in the four years since the previous presidential election, Fox viewers had become even more accustomed to flattery and less willing to hear news that challenged their expectations,” he writes. “Me serving up green beans to viewers who had been spoon-fed ice cream sundaes for years came as a terrible shock to their systems.”

Stirewalt clearly feels he was an innocent victim of the angry mob.

“Amid the geyser of anger in the wake of the Arizona call, Senator Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota, called for my firing and accused me of a ‘cover-up,'” he writes. “Covering up what, exactly? We didn’t have any ballots to count and we didn’t have any electoral votes to award.”

If only Fox News wasn’t so into flattering its viewers, he argues, America would have known Trump was going to lose.

“Had viewers been given a more accurate understanding of the race over time, Trump’s loss would have been seen as a likely outcome,” he contends. “Instead of understanding his narrow win in 2016 as the shocking upset that it was, viewers were told to assume that polls don’t apply (unless they were good for Trump) and that forecasters like me were going to be wrong again.”

Of course, no bashing of Fox News would be considered complete to a Fox-hating reader without some snarky complaints about host Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, so Sirewalt gives his potential readers exactly what they want by accusing Carlson of giving his viewers exactly what they want.

“Carlson is rich and famous,” he writes. “Yet he regularly rails about the ‘big, legacy media outlets.’ Guests denounce the ‘corporate media’ on his show and Fox’s C.E.O. calls Carlson ‘brave’ for discussing controversial topics. Yet somehow, nobody even giggles.”

“It does not take any kind of journalistic courage to pump out night after night exactly what your audience wants to hear,” he argues.

As for Hannity and analysts like former Clinton aide Dick Morris, Stirewalt claims they lied to viewers for years about the popularity of Republicans to keep their ratings up, and viewers were apparently too stupid to notice.

“They wanted it to be true because they wanted Republicans to win,” he says, “but keeping viewers keyed up about the epochal victory close at hand was an appealing incentive to exaggerate the G.O.P. chances. It was good for them to raise expectations, but it wasn’t good for the party they were rooting for.”

“Despite all that Fox’s detractors said about the network being a mouthpiece for the Republican Party,” he continues, “the two organizations had fundamentally different aims.”

Now a columnist for The Dispatch and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute — a D.C.-based political think tank — Stirewalt somehow manages to remain strong after Fox News was mean to him.

“I make no pretense that I have always been on the side of the angels,” he bravely writes. “But I have definitely paid my dues.”


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