Speed Reads

Fox in the Searchlight

Ex-Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt testified at Monday's Jan. 6 hearing, broadcast on Fox News

Monday's televised hearings from the House Jan. 6 committee detailed how former President Donald Trump continued to falsely claim he was denied a second term due to election fraud despite the vast majority of his inner circle telling him otherwise

The committee played video testimony of Trump's campaign leaders, family members, lawyers, and former Attorney General William Barr — all Republicans — urging Trump to drop his fraud conspiracies and advising against trying to declare victory on Election Night. "If he really believes this stuff," Barr said, "he's become detached from reality."

Fox News, which did not broadcast last week's live hearing but did air Monday's testimony, played a small but significant role Monday as well. The first live witness was Chris Stirewalt, who was fired as Fox News political editor two months after playing a leading role in the channel's momentous early call that President Biden won Arizona. That call, especially coming from Fox News, caused "anger and disappointment" in the White House, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller testified. 

Stirewalt explained how Fox News' decision desk crushed its competition by calling Arizona — correctly — a week before other networks, and how his team had tried to defuse Trump's attempts to exploit the "red mirage."

Sitrewalt told NRP's David Folkenflik after the hearing that the baffling furor his team's Arizona call caused at Fox News showed him "how much television — the perceptions of events of television as entertainment, news as entertainment, and treating it like a sport — had really damaged the capacity of Americans to be good citizens in a republic because they confused the TV show with the real thing." 

Folkenflik asked Stirewalt how Fox News viewers will understand the committee's hearings, and Stirewalt said he cares "less about what Fox viewers or Republicans or whomever care happened in 2020," and more about 2024 and whether "we entering a new chapter in American history where we gradually fall apart because we can't even agree on the results of an election?"

CNN media analyst Bill Carter said Fox News is finding "it's getting harder to dismiss" the Jan. 6 hearings. Stirewalt, he said, "was employed by Fox News, and his job was to call various states," and "now they have to argue, 'Well, he was right but we didn't like it anyway, and we fired him for that,'" which "says a lot about your approach to news."