Chris Stirewalt, the recently fired politics editor at Fox News, wrote a column in the Los Angeles Times today essentially accusing his former employer of stifling the news to fit a pro-Trump business plan, yet he stopped short of directly criticizing the network.
Stirewalt was fired recently, in a “purge” by Porter Berry, the Sean Hannity crony who seems intent on remaking the network in the Hannity show image. Today, Stirewalt wrote that he was “proud” that his network was the first to project Joe Biden would win Arizona “and very happy to defend that call in the face of a public backlash egged on by former President Trump.”
But instead of coming out and stating what we all know, i.e. that Fox didn’t want to hear the truth, Stirewalt wrote:
Being first with the account or images of major events is a thing of scant value now. What one outlet has, every outlet will have, usually within seconds. Indeed, being first can prove to be a commercial disadvantage.
Then he tried to all-sides it:
Whatever the platform, the competitive advantage belongs to those who can best habituate consumers, which in the stunted, data-obsessed thinking of our time, means avoiding at almost any cost impinging on the reality so painstakingly built around them. As outlets have increasingly prioritized habituation over information, consumers have unsurprisingly become ever more sensitive to any interruption of their daily diet.
But Stirewalt didn’t, presumably because he couldn’t, point to any left-wing platform that lied to its audience:
The rebellion on the populist right against the results of the 2020 election was partly a cynical, knowing effort by political operators and their hype men in the media to steal an election or at least get rich trying.
The lie that Trump won the 2020 election wasn't nearly as much aimed at the opposing party as it was at the news outlets that stated the obvious, incontrovertible fact.
Still, I have to sympathize with Stirewalt who probably never dreamed he'd get fired for telling the truth and, essentially doing his job honestly. Nor that he would become what he described as “a target of murderous rage from consumers who were furious at not having their views confirmed.” Instead of supporting Stirewalt for defending the truth under pressure, Hannity’s buddy fired him.
If only Stirewalt had had a little more courage to call out that despicable, anti-American behavior a little more directly.
Tonight, Stirewalt tried to persuade Chris Hayes that the problem is a 24-hour news cycle that depends on advertising.
Hayes wasn’t buying it. “The deeper problem is that your network, the president, was feeding people substantive lies. Incredibly important, material lies about the world,” he shot back.
You can watch Stirewalt’s appearance below, from MSNBCs January 28, 2021 All In with Chris Hayes.
2/5/21 Update: Fox claims Stirewalt was not fired for his Arizona prediction. On February 2, 2021, The Washington Post reported this about Stirewalt's departure:
According to two associates, the elder Murdoch was particularly put off by Stirewalt’s on-air manner, which he perceived as overly casual for a discussion of the election results. When asked about the Trump campaign’s baseless claims of fraud, Stirewalt replied: “Lawsuits, schmawsuits. We haven’t seen any evidence yet that there’s anything wrong.”
“Chris Stirewalt’s leaving had nothing to do with the correct Arizona call by the Fox decision desk,” Murdoch wrote in an email to The Washington Post.
Stirewalt was respected in the newsroom but had another weakness inside the building that predated the Arizona call: his ratings. Fox, which analyzes its ratings on a minute-by-minute basis, found that viewership dropped or plateaued during Stirewalt’s frequent appearances, according to two Fox staffers who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. When reached by phone, Stirewalt declined to comment.