The Death of Fox News

On Election Night, I tuned into Fox News, just like millions of other Americans. I was elated to see everything breaking for President Trump, and—if I changed channels briefly to CNN or MSNBC—I saw quavering voices and teary eyes, both evocative of Trump’s “surprise” victory in 2016. It was shaping up to be a night to remember, a night of redemption and glory for our country and of vindication for all Trump supporters.

But a funny thing happened on the way to victory. Just as President Trump and his closest advisers were preparing to throw a giant party in celebration of their triumph, Fox News—the supposed voice of American conservatism—injected a note of caution. 

Fox called Arizona, where nearly a million votes remained to be counted, for Biden. Given what we now know about how close the result in Arizona will be, this was grossly inappropriate and unprofessional. As it turns out though, it was much more than that: it was also potentially the deciding factor in the election.      

Imagine if Fox had not made its despicable, unforgivable call. All signs on election night would have pointed to a Trump victory. Trump unambiguously would have declared victory. Americans would have gone to bed believing, despite media hand wringing and equivocating, that Trump was the victor. The same momentum and sense of inevitability that now attaches itself to Vice President Biden, rightly or wrongly, would have attached itself to President Trump.

In the ensuing days, millions of additional votes would have been counted. Trump’s victory margins would have narrowed, and in the course of time, Biden would have inched ahead in some of the key battlegrounds. Republicans and Trump supporters would have been shocked. They and Trump himself would have cried foul. They would have said that only fraud and malfeasance could erase such massive leads. They would have said, in other words, that Trump was the rightful winner, and only Democratic shenanigans could explain the reversal of fortune.

All this would have come to pass, and in that sense, the history of the last several days would have been very similar to how things actually transpired, except for one key difference: primed to accept the fact of a Trump win, the American people, and even the media, would have taken Republican claims of fraud and malfeasance far more seriously. 

Instead of dismissing such allegations as the ravings of a snubbed, jaded, and frustrated one-term president, every thinking American would have had to ask the question: how can we explain an electoral system that produces such an emphatic result on election night, and then backtracks and reverses itself in the next few days? Isn’t this, at the very least, suspicious, and doesn’t it call for the fullest possible audit of the vote?

That’s what should be America’s attitude even now, given all the unanswered questions about the legitimacy of our electoral process. Instead, the mainstream media, including Fox News, is indulging in a rush to judgment. They are celebrating Biden’s “win” and they are castigating Trump and his supporters for their supposed sour grapes.

All this, in my view, is what Fox News and its “decision desk” have wrought. They have made it far more difficult for President Trump to press his objections and to pursue his valid legal challenges to the election’s outcome. They have made it far easier for Biden and the Democrats to slap themselves on their backs and pretend that the election is over and done with.

What’s worse, Fox News has compounded its sins by joining in the “post-election” plaudits for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and the Democrats. It has even silenced its own commentators who support President Trump’s principled resistance to the precipitous enthronement of a candidate who may have benefited from widespread fraud.

Let’s face it: in 2020, Fox News is stronger than ever, and its ratings have been higher than ever, all thanks to the conservative and patriotic fervor unleashed by President Trump. At the hour of decision, however, Fox chose to bite the hand that feeds it: it betrayed Trump and his supporters.      

Fox’s steady shift to the Left in recent years apparently was overlooked and forgiven by conservatives. Surely, its blatant favoritism to Joe Biden on election night, and in the days since, won’t be.

Is Fox News dead? Time will tell, but one thing is for sure: it’s dead to me.

 

About Nicholas L. Waddy

Nicholas L. Waddy, an associate professor of history at SUNY Alfred, blogs at www.waddyisright.com.

Photo: Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

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