A major shake-up at Fox News saw the firing of a longtime political editor for defending the network’s calling of Arizona during the election last year.
Back in November, the network – backed by data from the Associated Press – made the decision to call Arizona before all votes had been counted.
It was a move questioned by Trump allies within the company live on air, and met with vitriol from his supporters, who took to shouting “Fox News sucks!” outside of electoral offices in the state.
It ended up being the correct call, taking Arizona from Republican to Democratic for the first time since Bill Clinton, and securing Joe Biden 11 all-important seats.
Chris Stirewalt still lost his job for defending it, having worked as a key component to Fox’s political coverage for over a decade.
In a scathing op-ed for the Los Angeles Times, he describes how defending Fox’s prediction of a flip to the Democrats left him a “target of murderous rage” by Trump supporters.
At the time he assured viewers the network would be “careful, cautious, and earnest”, which feels a bit on the nose given what came next.
He also concedes that the response was due to “informational malnourishment”, which might come as a shock to the audience he helped build for 10 years.
It makes for genuinely chilling reading:
“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,” Stirewalt wrote. “Having been cosseted by self-validating coverage for so long, many Americans now consider any news that might suggest that they are in error or that their side has been defeated as an attack on them personally.”
In a further passage, he says: “Americans gorge themselves daily on empty informational calories, indulging their sugar fixes of self-affirming half-truths and even outright lies”.
You could call it cancel culture-esque, a term Trump supporters are proven to have a pretty loose grasp of.
“Whatever the platform, the competitive advantage belongs to those who can best habituate consumers, which in the stunted, data-obsessed thinking of our time, means avoiding at almost any cost impinging on the reality so painstakingly built around them.
‘As outlets have increasingly prioritized habituation over information, consumers have unsurprisingly become ever more sensitive to any interruption of their daily diet”.