Text messages between Fox News anchor Bret Baier and then-Fox host Tucker Carlson showed the two were extremely concerned about their network’s election coverage two days after it was held, according to texts obtained by The Daily Beast.
The conversation happened on Nov. 5, 2020, when a winner in the presidential election had yet to be determined. On election night two nights before, Fox News and the Associated Press became the first outlets to call Arizona for Joe Biden. He eventually won the state, but very narrowly – by 0.3%. The call by the network angered many of its viewers. Meanwhile, the AP temporarily put Arizona back in the too-close-to-call category.
“I continue to think the company isn’t taking the [sic] seriously enough,” Carlson texted Baier. “We need to do something to reassure our core audience. They’re our whole business model.”
Carlson was concerned about the network’s conservative audience fleeing Fox because many viewers believed Donald Trump’s false claims about voter fraud. Trump claimed on election night he had won, despite several states still outstanding.
Carlson also asked Baier about ways he could assist.
“Is there some way I could help?” he asked. “Obviously I’d never do anything without full approval from the top.”
He further wondered if the network had a “plan” for making more calls on states whose elections were not decided at the time.
“We could lose our audience,” he said.
“We have been pushing for answers,” Baier replied. “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 responded. “We could really fuck up a lot of what we’ve built.”
“I totally agree,” said Baier, who told Carlson he was “taking major incoming.”
The Daily Beast also reported Carlson suggested interviewing the network’s decision desk director about the Arizona call:
Elsewhere in the exchange, Carlson floated the idea of interviewing Decision Desk director Arnon Mishkin—who made the decision to call Arizona for Biden on election night and faced intense backlash—on his own program. “But maybe you come on to walk us through it? Viewers trust you. Or maybe he interview 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. “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.” (Carlson ultimately did not get the opportunity to grill Mishkin on his primetime show.)
Regarding the Arizona call, Fox says it stands by the decision to call the state at that time.
“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 said in a statement.
Baier and Carlson also agreed 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 said.
In other texts, the hosts worried about being “destroyed” by the election while Trump would blame Fox.
“When Trump loses, he’s going to blame us,” Carlson said. “That’s going to be very bad.”
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]