- A new book says Rupert Murdoch approved Fox News’ decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden.
- “F— him,” the Fox News proprietor is said to have declared of Donald Trump at the time.
- Trump flew into a rage after, saying, “What the f—? How can they call this?” the book said.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Rupert Murdoch personally gave final approval to Fox News’s decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election, according to Michael Wolff’s new book on Donald Trump.
The episode features in “Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency,” an early copy of which was obtained by Insider.
Wolff wrote that Murdoch’s son Lachlan, the CEO of Fox Corporation, got a call from the network’s election-data operation shortly after 11 p.m. ET on election night saying it was ready to declare Arizona for Biden.
The book noted that the Murdochs — who spearhead a vast right-wing media empire — had “every reason” to delay calling Arizona at the time, given Fox’s steadfast allegiance to Trump and the fact that no other network had made the call yet.
“Lachlan got his father on the phone to ask if he wanted to make the early call. His father, with signature grunt, assented, adding, ‘F— him,'” Wolff wrote.
The book said that Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer then called Trump’s lead social-media strategist, Jason Miller, to let him know the network was going to call Arizona for Biden.
“Miller involuntarily rose from his seat. ‘What the f—?’ he said out loud, looking around and seeing the still-merry and untroubled faces in the Map Room” of Trump campaign staffers and insiders who believed they were on the fast-track to reelection, Wolff wrote.
Hemmer reportedly replied: “That’s what they’re doing. That’s what they’re going with.”
“Who?” Miller asked.
“The election desk,” Hemmer said, adding that the network’s decision was going to be aired imminently.
In a statement to Insider, a Fox News spokesperson contest the Hemmer anecdote, saying: “this never happened and is completely untrue.”
As soon as Fox News made the call, Trump’s campaign shifted into damage control to contain the fallout from the president’s rage.
“What the f—? How can they call this?” Trump said, according to the book. “We’re winning. And everybody can see we are going to win. Everybody’s calling to say that we’re winning. And then they pull this?”
Wolff’s previous reporting about the Trump White House drew scrutiny after journalists and fact-checkers found that some of the details in his first book about the administration didn’t add up.
He defended the book, however, and said he stood by his reporting. He also said “Landslide” featured only episodes that Trump’s staff had confirmed or that were backed up by multiple sources.
He did not cite any sources in his anecdote about the Murdochs’ involvement in the Arizona call. Wolff has written extensively on Murdoch, including a 2008 biography said to be based on 50 hours of interviews with him.
The decision to call Arizona for Biden was a pivotal moment on election night, indicating the Democrat was poised to win the traditionally Republican-leaning state and complicating Trump’s ability to declare an early victory in the overall race.
Fox News’ decision to make the call is widely believed to have shocked and angered Trump, who had counted on steadfastly supportive coverage of his administration from Fox News during his term in office.
Numerous reports have indicated the Trump team lobbied the network to reverse the call. The New York Times reported in November that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House advisor, contacted Murdoch directly asking for a retraction.
Networks typically call US elections before all the votes have been counted if they’ve determined the leading candidate has a lead that is insurmountable. Biden ultimately won in Arizona by about 10,000 votes.
The Fox News elections desk and its editor received praise in some quarters after resisting pressure to reverse the call, seemingly in defiance of the highly partisan slant of most of the network’s coverage.
Chris Stirewalt, the network’s political editor at the time, described becoming the focus for “murderous rage” from Trump supporters for his involvement in the Arizona call.
He was laid off in a restruture this January which some insiders characterized as a “purge” of insufficiently pro-Trump staff.
Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
Wolff’s claims add another layer of drama to the story of the relationship between Trump and the Murdochs.
Rupert Murdoch was initially dismissive of Trump’s bid for the presidency in 2015, but as the reality star began sweeping aside challengers Fox News became one of the key media supporters of Trump’s agenda.
Murdoch reportedly started to sour on Trump late last year, believing — according to reports — that Trump had botched his response to the coronavirus pandemic and was on course to lose the November election.
Though the Arizona call suggested that Fox News was distancing itself from Trump, many of the network’s hosts have continued to back the whitewashing of the pro-Trump Capitol riot and bogus election-fraud claims pushed by the former president.