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Fox News editor dismissed after defending Biden prediction says US suffers from ‘informational malnourishment’

January 31, 2021
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Trump supporters storm the US Capitol in his name (EPA-EFE)
Trump supporters storm the US Capitol in his name (EPA-EFE)

A former Fox News editor who claims he was recently ousted from the conservative network after being the first to predict President Joe Biden’s election victory in Arizona has said the US is suffering from “informational malnourishment” in an Op-Ed published on Thursday.

Fox News said that the editor’s dismissal was part of a restructuring.

Chris Stirewalt had previously served as a politics editor for the network, where he helped forecast the latest election results and made the call for Arizona – which had not voted to elect a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996 – well before the Associated Press and other major news outlets.

“I was proud of our being first to project that Joe Biden would win Arizona, and very happy to defend that call in the face of a public backlash egged on by former President Trump,” Mr Stirewalt wrote in the article published by Los Angeles Times. “Being right and beating the competition is no act of heroism; it’s just meeting the job description of the work I love.”

Though he and his team were proven right, Fox News audiences and prominent conservatives attacked Mr Stirewalt and Fox News’ decision desk director Arnon Mishkin for defending the announcement as former President Donald Trump and his allies promoted false conspiracy theories of a rigged vote.

“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,” he continued. “But it was also the tragic consequence of the informational malnourishment so badly afflicting the nation.”

He added: “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.”

As Election Day turned into a weeks-long event last year – in part due to an historic surge in mail-in voting, which delayed official vote counts in many states for several days – Mr Stirewalt and his former colleagues took to the airwaves and asserted their assessment of Arizona’s election results were solid.

“Arizona was a state that we thought early, very clearly was going into Biden’s column. We held off for a while until we finally called it,” Mr Mishkin told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto at the time, adding: “We remain confident and we have not changed the call.”

Bill Sammon, a senior vice president and managing editor at Fox’s Washington bureau, also announced his retirement earlier this week. Mr Stirewalt’s dismissal from the company was reported by the Associated Press as “part of a restructuring of Fox’s digital operations”. Mr Mishkin, who also faced criticism in the wake of the election results, is not a Fox News employee.

“I remain confident that the current depredations of the digital revolution will pass, just as those of the telegraph, radio and broadcast television did,” Mr Stirewalt wrote. “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.”

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