By:
September 21, 2022

Just when you think you’ve heard all the media stories about the 2020 presidential election, along comes another.

Back in November of 2020, Fox News’ Bret Baier — often touted as one of the network’s straight news reporters — was “ready to give in” to then-President Donald Trump, who was pressuring the network to rescind calling the state of Arizona for Joe Biden. This is according to a new book, “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” written by New York Times reporter Peter Baker and New Yorker staff writer and CNN global affairs analyst Susan Glasser.

According to the book, Baier wrote an email to Jay Wallace, the president and executive editor at Fox News, that said, “The Trump campaign was really pissed. This situation is getting uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I keep having to defend this on air.”

He accused Fox News’ Decision Desk of “holding on for pride,” according to the book. The book went on to say that Baier wrote in his email, “It’s hurting us. The sooner we pull it — even if it gives us major egg — and we put it back in his column the better we are in my opinion.”

What’s odd is Fox News never put Arizona in the win column for Trump.

Baker and Glasser called it “stunning,” adding, “The leading news anchor for Fox was pushing not just to say Arizona was too close to call but to pretend that the president had won it.”

As it turned out, Fox News’ call was correct. Biden won Arizona.

Through a Fox News spokesperson, Baier said, “The full context of the e-mail is not reported in this book. I never said the Trump campaign ‘was really pissed’ – that was from an external email that I referenced within my note. This was an email sent AFTER election night. In the immediate days following the election, the vote margins in Arizona narrowed significantly and I communicated these changes to our team along with what people on the ground were saying and predicting district by district. I wanted to analyze at what point (what vote margin) would we have to consider pulling the call for Biden. I also noted that I fully supported our decision desk’s call and would defend it on air.”

Glasser responded to Baier’s response by saying, “We stand by the reporting in our book, and would note that his statement does not deny the accuracy of the email we reported. In addition, it’s especially notable that Baier wrote in the email that it would be better for Fox News ‘to put it (Arizona) back in (Trump’s) column.’ In fact, Arizona was never in Trump’s column.”

A Fox News spokesperson said, “FOX News made an election night call of historic magnitude and was first to do so. We stood by the call in the days that followed, it was proven correct, and other news organizations eventually joined us.”

That is true. Fox News called Arizona for Biden before anyone else. It stood by the call and it turned out to be correct.

Much has been made about the fact that Chris Stirewalt, who was Fox News’ political editor at the time of the election and part of the team that made the Arizona call for Biden, said he was fired a couple of months after the election. Fox News has said Stirewalt was laid off as part of a restructuring.

Insider’s Nicole Gaudiano has more on this latest story.

Reviewing The Divider

NPR’s Ron Elving reviewed the new Baker-Glasser book about the Trump presidency, calling it “the first comprehensive look at the full four years as a one-volume history worthy of being called a chronicle. Weighing in at more than 650 pages, the text and notes are daunting to behold.”

Elving wrote, “As a sumptuous feast of astonishing tales, it may hold wonderments indeed for those first contemplating the enormity of the Trump phenomenon. For them, this could be like a child’s first encounter with Harry Potter or an adolescent’s first taste of Tolkien. But even a reader steeped in years of Trump coverage and well-versed in the precedent literature may be surprised at how compelling this narrative proves to be. The more one reads, the more one wishes to read.”

Elving called “The Divider” a “rushing torrent of anecdotes and recollections.”

The book includes some 300 interviews, including two with Trump.

In his review for The New York Times, David Greenberg wrote, “To be sure, asking readers in 2022 to revisit the Sturm und Drang of the Trump years may seem like asking a Six Flags patron, staggering from a ride on the Tsunami, to jump back on for another go. But those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.”

The day after

Adnan Syed, center, leaving the courthouse in Baltimore on Monday after his murder conviction was tossed out. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

As I wrote about in Tuesday’s newsletter, Adnan Syed, whose case was chronicled in the first season of the popular podcast “Serial,” had his murder conviction thrown out on Monday.

The New York Times’s David Leonhardt had a Q&A with the podcast’s host Sarah Koenig, who led a team of reporters looking into the Syed case. Koenig was in the courtroom Monday when Syed’s conviction was vacated.

Leonhardt asked Koenig what she thought when she first learned that it was actually the prosecutors who wanted Syed released because they weren’t confident in the original case.

Koenig said, “I was shocked. I did not see this coming at all. One of the first things I did was call Adnan’s brother and then his mother — they told me they didn’t know either. The prosecutors who filed the motion to release him kept it pretty tight, it seems. But the shocking part was that this was coming from the state’s side. I felt almost disoriented for about a day. Like the city prosecutor’s office suddenly pulled off a rubber mask and underneath was a scowling defense attorney.”

Be sure to check out a special episode of the “Serial” podcast that was put on Tuesday. In that episode, Koenig said, “(Monday), there was a lot of talk about fairness, but most of what the state put in that motion to vacate, all the actual evidence, was either known or knowable to cops and prosecutors back in 1999. So even on a day when the government publicly recognizes its own mistakes, it’s hard to feel cheered about a triumph of fairness. Because we’ve built a system that takes more than 20 years to self-correct. And that’s just this one case.”

Pew reports

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds.

The Pew Research Center released Tuesday its latest “fact sheet” reports on news — one on news consumption by platform, the other about preferred social media sites. The findings are consistent with earlier reports: Facebook is the preferred social media news source, followed by YouTube, and digital news consumption gains ground every year on other platforms.

Still, a few tasty nuggets jumped out:

  • The loss of market share from print to digital continues, but that has become old news. Now television is seeing a bigger loss. Its share of those who get news  there often has fallen to 31%, and digital’s advantage as the preferred source grew by 6 percentage points.
  • News that is consumed often on every major platform (digital, TV, radio, print) fell again in 2022, after also falling from 2020 to 2021. That suggests some combination of a news cycle that no longer commands as much interest and more people who have stopped engaging with the news because it is too repetitive and depressing.
  • None of the 11 social media platforms had regular consumers who were more likely to be Republican or lean Republican than to be Democrats. Evidently, conservatives tend to go elsewhere.

The results were based on a survey of more than 11,000 adults conducted in July and August.

A reliable return

CNN’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter about the media has been on hiatus since the network canceled the TV show of the same name last month and pushed out host Brian Stelter, who co-wrote the newsletter with CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy.

Now comes word that a reimagined “Reliable Sources” newsletter will debut next week with Darcy as the lead writer. According to The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Weprin, the revamped newsletter will publish four days a week — down from six days a week. Darcy told Weprin the newsletter will have a “more concise format” and will “continue to tackle issues relating to newsrooms, partisan media, social media, podcasts, and streaming services.”

Weprin wrote the newsletter will “be organized around specific sections so readers can quickly find the section they are looking for.”

Speaking of CNN …

Variety’s Brian Steinberg writes about CNN in “CNN’s Morning Plan Will Face A.M. Scramble.”

CNN announced last week that prime-time host Don Lemon will move to mornings to host a show with Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. Steinberg wrote, “Collins will be dispatched often to cover big stories on the ground, while Lemon and Harlow will be able to mix it up while focusing not only on big headlines but also popular culture.”

Steinberg spoke with Jim Bell, a longtime executive producer of NBC’s “Today” who is now head of strategy for NewsBreak, a local news and information platform, and added, “CNN’s new trio represents the latest effort by the news networks to devise a winning a.m. formula. Top producers in the genre say the goal isn’t just to deliver headlines and warm moments. ‘You are letting these people into your home at your most vulnerable time of day, the morning, and you wouldn’t want anyone else in your home, but you’re going to let these people in,’ says Bell.”

An inexcusable rant

A St. Louis radio show host, who also is a TV anchor for the local Fox affiliate, went on a profanity-laced rant against his female radio co-host last week. The comments came off the air, but were recorded and sent anonymously to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Post-Dispatch’s Joe Holleman reported, “(Vic) Faust used profanity at least 40 times in a roughly four-minute rant that berated co-host Crystal Cooper for, among other things, her weight and her parenting skills.” (The Post-Dispatch story has a bleeped-out version of the rant. You can also hear an edited version here.) Cooper defends herself in the audio clip and uses a few curse words herself, but nothing like Faust’s verbal attacks, which were, in a word, disgusting.

Faust called Cooper “fat,” “stupid” and “nasty,” and said, “Your kids have a (expletive) terrible mom. I feel sorry for them.” From what I could tell listening to the rant, Faust seemed to be upset that Cooper poked fun at him on the air.

The radio show Faust co-hosts is on KFNS (100.7 FM). It’s a hard-rock station known as “The Viper.” Holleman reported that Faust has been a main news anchor at KTVI (Channel 2), a St. Louis Fox affiliate, since 2015. Faust seemed to confirm to Holleman that the audio is authentic, and said there was “background” to the story, but did not comment beyond that.

Holleman has since reported that “Faust was not on the air Monday and the radio show appears to have been put on hold.” As of Tuesday, Holleman reported the TV station’s management has not responded to messages seeking comment.

Brotherly love

Former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning in 2021. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

One of sports broadcasting’s most interesting (and successful) experiments in recent memory is ESPN’s ManningCast. Brothers and former NFL greats Peyton and Eli Manning watch “Monday Night Football” from remote locations and have loose commentary about the game, football and whatever else crosses their minds. It also includes appearances by celebrity guests. The broadcast is produced by ESPN along with Peyton Manning’s Omaha Productions.

The ManningCast airs on ESPN2, while the main “Monday Night Football” broadcast typically airs on ESPN. While viewership for the main broadcast overwhelmingly beats the ManningCast, the Mannings still draw respectable numbers. In the first week of this NFL season, the main “MNF” broadcast, featuring the newly hired Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, drew a whopping 19.85 million viewers. But the ManningCast averaged a solid 1.5 million viewers.

Eli Manning told Axios’s Sara Fischer, “It’s such a unique model. And I think it works … just because the brother connection makes it interesting. We’re not scared to get made fun of. We’re not scared to make mistakes and keep it very raw and authentic.”

Some have argued that the broadcast is best when it’s just Peyton and Eli without guests, but Eli told Fischer, “I think in the middle of the game, it’s fun to have celebrities on and hear about their relationship with football and how it’s impacted their lives and who they grew up watching.”

By the way, if you haven’t seen it, Eli recently put on makeup and a wig and posed as an older college student trying to make it as a walk-on for Penn State. Check out the clips here and here.

Media tidbits

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

More resources for journalists

The Poynter Report is our daily media newsletter. To have it delivered to your inbox Monday-Friday, sign up here.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Donate
Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

More News

Back to News

Comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.