Even ‘Succession’ Political Consultants Thought That Election Episode Was ‘Chilling’ and ‘Eerily Prescient’ (Video)

Consultants from the Bush and Obama administrations said the HBO drama’s latest chapter reminded them of 2020 and 2000 campaigns

Two political consultants who advised on “Succession” were shocked by how “chilling” Sunday night’s episode was and how “eerily prescient” the writers of the HBO drama continue to be.

Season 4’s eighth episode, titled “America Decides,” sees the Roy siblings squabble with one another and put their thumb on the scale in ATN’s first election night coverage since the shocking death of their father, Logan (Brian Cox). The fictional network ends up calling the state of Wisconsin before all the votes can be counted in favor of Jeryd Mencken and later calls the entire election for the far-right presidential candidate.

In an interview segment reflecting on the episode Monday night, CNN’s Jake Tapper drew parallels between the show, the behind-the-scenes communications of Fox News that emerged in its legal battle with Dominion Voting Systems and the conservative channel’s now-infamous call that Joe Biden was projected to win Arizona in the 2020 election.

“Is it art imitating life or life imitating art? It was a little bit chilling about how eerily similar the whole thing was,” Ben Ginsberg, former Bush 2000/2004 and Romney 2008/2012 attorney said. “I mean the personalities involved, the pressures on a news organization, where I came from, which was campaigns and how they would react in the moment and what they might be able to depend on from a news organization. It was really quite something.” 

Eric Schultz, a former deputy press secretary for the Obama Administration, added that the “Succession” writers are not only brilliant, creative and funny, but “eerily prescient.”

“We started working on the show last spring and obviously the latest revelations about Fox and Dominion came out much more recently. But I think that you are right that the writers are always looking for real life analogs to just sort of play off of,” Schultz said. “Obviously, Fox’s call for Arizona in 2020 put them out on a ledge. A lot of the other networks were not willing to go there at that point. But what that did, that boxed them in from calling other states because they would have been the first network to have announced president elect Joe Biden. And so the writers, I think, in this show wanted to turn them on its head and sort of play with if they weren’t willing to go out there and in fact reverse their motives, what that would look like.” 

Ginsberg added that the “Succession” call for Wisconsin reminded him of the 2000 election in Florida, where calls were made early in the evening that Al Gore had won the state and Karl Rove realized that the numbers were wrong.

“They called in to Fox or to the networks and the decision desk and showed them why the call was wrong,” Ginsberg said. “So it’s not that there is zero contact between campaigns and news organizations. What was so shocking about this one is that no organization would make a call like this with that many outstanding votes.” 

Episode 8 director Andrij Parekh told TheWrap that “America Decides” was “very much based on real events and based on the Trump election.”

“I would love to say that I think that Trump winning [the 2016] election just helped propel ‘Succession’ in a way that may have not if Hillary [Clinton] won,” he said. “‘Succession’ was a great foil to Republicans’ and Fox News’ partnership.”

Watch CNN’s full segment in the video above.