The Shameful Election Coverage by Fox News
“Why can we call the Democrats taking the House this early?” Fox News anchor Bret Baier asked analyst Chris Stirewalt. “Because we’re just that good,” Stirewalt replied with a proud smirk.
That just about sums up Fox’s election coverage of the 2018 midterms. It was a self-indulgent display of self-promotion, bickering, and irresponsibility as the entire House was called before polls in the western part of the country had even closed. One has to wonder how many people were deterred from voting when they heard Republicans had already lost the House.
There was a time when news media covered elections without needing to be the first horse out of the gate with results. Reporters would patiently wait for polls to close, for the numbers to be tallied, and for a clear winner to be tabulated. That changed with exit polling and guesses about whether these reflected what really happened inside the voting booths.
Last night, Fox News jumped the shark. They had a new system they claimed would deliver unprecedented accuracy -- they used voters’ surveys along with the AP’s race results to predict outcomes. With this methodology, they called the House before anyone else -- to the anger of many viewers.
With just two gains by Democrats and still early in the evening, Baier suddenly announced that the Democrats had taken the House. Not “we project that they’ve taken the House” (an addition they made later after, no doubt because complaints flooded their phone lines). Not simply “we think this will be a good night for the Democrats based on our analysis.” Nope, they jumped ahead in time and declared it as if it had already occurred -- with many people not even voting yet.
Were they wrong in their prediction? No. The Democrats did take the House, though not by the landslide or “Blue Wave” the media expected. Despite being right, they were still wrong in timing as viewers expected more self-control in reporting predictions as fact.
The Democrats went on to gain only 26 seats in a midterm in which Congress historically flips from the party in power. This gain, while giving power of the House over to the Democrats -- an obvious disappointment for Republicans -- is not the indictment of Trump many think, particularly when you compare losses in previous administrations.
In 2010, Obama lost 63 seats. In 1994, Clinton lost 52. You have to go all the way back to Reagan to find a Republican loss the same as Trump’s -- 26 in 1982. None lost their second term.
The shellacking Obama received in 2010 -- a nuclear explosion compared to 2018 -- was even more of an indictment of his presidency than we are seeing with Trump’s. Core Democratic groups, including Hispanics, African Americans, and young people, refused to even show up for their own president. Independents voted Republican in numbers unlike any since 1994. A full 74 percent of voters weren’t happy with the federal government, 61 percent thought the country was on the wrong track, and 55 percent of the electorate disapproved of Obama’s job performance.