Rupert Murdoch was eager to make a call and effectively — and emphatically — declare Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential race as vote counting continued three days after election day, internal Fox News emails show.
The Fox News Decision Desk played a pivotal role in the turn of events that was 2020 Election Night, calling the state of Arizona for Biden many hours before any other media outlet.
But it was Murdoch who encouraged Fox News leadership to pull the cattle brand from the fire and call things for Biden on Nov. 6, with several states still counting votes, emails made public Friday by Dominion Voting Systems in its $1.6 billion defamation case against the network show.
“It would be great if we call it for Biden as soon as he gets over, say, 35,000 ahead in Pennsylvania,” Murdoch wrote. “Whenver we do it it will all be over. Regardless of Arizona.”
The Fox Corp chairman followed up 20 minutes later with another email to Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, amending his direction.
“Second thoughts,” Murdoch wrote. “Maybe 50,000 in Pennsylvania and ‘subject to litigation.'”
Murdoch went on to note Wall Street Journal editorial page chief Paul Gigot didn’t think it mattered with regards to Donald Trump’s approach, as the “Big Lie” was already well underway.
“Gigot thinks it won’t change Trump,” Murdoch’s email said. “But he’s got to get some real evidence.
“Fact that Rudy advising really bad!” Murdoch added, referring to Trump’s former personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
The next day Fox News joined most other major news outlets to call the race for Biden after the results of Pennsylvania mirrored Murdoch’s urging.
See screenshots of the emails as filed in the Dominion case below.
The emails illustrate Fox News’ path from before the election, when it seemingly sought to accurately reflect and highlight the results of the 2020 election in a timely manner, to the aftermath of the election, when the network’s ratings began to take a hit as Trump-supporting viewers tuned out.
Five days later, an email Scott sent to a group of Fox News leadership staffers reflected the change. That message, seen below, was also filed Friday by Dominion.
“Americans distrust for the media and big tech and certainly now polling connects directly to their distrust and questions around the integrity and transparency of the voting process,” Scott wrote. “This is why there is so much intense anger over our AZ call. A trust has been broken and it’s our jobs to help them through this to the other side with strong reporting, investigative pieces and certainly speaking to the audience with respect is critical.”
The emails were made public the same day a judge ordered the case to trial after Fox News’ motion for a summary judgment dismissal was rejected. The trial was set for mid-April.
“We are gratified by the Court’s thorough ruling soundly rejecting all of Fox’s arguments and defenses and finding as a matter of law that their statements about Dominion are false. We look forward to going to trial,” a spokesperson for Dominion said in a statement.
Fox News said in a statement that the case continued to be about freedom-of-speech considerations.
“This case is and always has been about the First Amendment protections of the media’s absolute right to cover the news,” the statement said “Fox will continue to fiercely advocate for the rights of free speech and a free press as we move into the next phase of these proceedings.” (A Dominion spokesperson in turn said: “The Court has rejected Fox’s First Amendment ‘newsworthy allegation’ defense and held that Dominion’s lawsuit is consistent with the First Amendment.”)