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Texts between Fox News anchor Bret Baier and then-Fox host Tucker Carlson revealed their extreme concern about their network’s election coverage two days after it was held, according to the messages which were obtained by the Daily Beast.
The conversation took place on Nov. 5, 2020, when the winner of the presidential election had yet to be determined. On election night, Fox News and the Associated Press were the first to call Arizona for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, which angered many of the network’s viewers. Eventually, Biden won the state but only by a narrow margin of 0.3 percent; the AP temporarily moved Arizona back to the “too-close-to-call” category.
“I continue to think the company isn’t taking the [sic] seriously enough,” Carlson said in a text to Baier. “We need to do something to reassure our core audience. They’re our whole business model.”
Carlson expressed his concerns about the core audience potentially leaving Fox News due to their belief in then-President Donald Trump’s claims about voter fraud. Carlson also asked Baier if there was any way he could assist in the situation.
“Is there some way I could help?” he asked. “Obviously I’d never do anything without full approval from the top.” He also asked if the network had any “plan” to call more states where the elections were not yet decided.
“We could lose our audience,” he said.
“We have been pushing for answers,” Baier responded. “I have pressed them to slow. And I think they will slow walk Nevada. The votes don’t come in until tomorrow.”
“Please let me know if they don’t seem to be obeying,” Carlson said in reply. “We could really f**k up a lot of what we’ve built.”
“I totally agree,” said Baier, who also said he was “taking major incoming.”
During the exchange, Carlson also offered the idea of interviewing Arnon Miskin, the Decision Desk director who made the decision to call Arizona early for Biden and faced tremendous backlash for it.
“But maybe you come on to walk us through it? Viewers trust you. Or maybe he interviews Mishkin? I’m open. But again I want to help. Let me know,” Carlson wrote.
“Arnon would be good. For YOU to grill him,” Baier wrote back. “But I have had him on a bunch. I am happy to do it. But may say I wouldn’t have made the call when we did. But we did.”
Ultimately, Carlson did not have the opportunity to have Mishkin on his program, Mediaite noted.
Though viewers were upset at the time, Fox News stood by its early call of Arizona.
“FOX News stood by the Arizona call despite intense scrutiny. Given the extremely narrow 0.3% margin and a new projection mechanism that no other network had, it’s hardly surprising there would be postmortem discussions surrounding the call and how it was executed, no matter the candidates,” the network declared in a statement.
Both Baier and Carlson went on to agree that they needed to do “whatever” to keep “our viewers happy.”
“I’ve got four more years here,” Carlson said. “I’m stuck with Fox. Got to do whatever I can to keep our numbers up and our viewers happy.”
“Yes,” Baier replied.
They also talked about being “destroyed” by the election results, adding that Trump would blame them and their network.
“When Trump loses, he’s going to blame us,” Carlson said. “That’s going to be very bad.”
Last week, Fox News dumped Carlson in a move that continues to reverberate across the network and the cable news industry. Popular figure Kayleigh McEnany will host his old 8 PM ET time slot for the network next week as the company continues to rotate talent before settling on a permanent replacement.
McEnany, who previously served as the White House press secretary under President Donald Trump before joining Fox News, will host the show, which is currently being called “Fox News Tonight” since Carlson’s ouster.
“Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade helmed the show in the first week after Carlson was abruptly shown the door. Lawrence Jones, the host of the weekend program Cross Country, took over for the second week. McEnany co-hosts Fox’s midday opinion program Outnumbered, which often boasts better ratings than network talk show competition, including GMA3 and Today w/ Hoda & Jenna,” Mediaite reported in a separate story.