Fox News regrets Arizona call? Lineup shakeup underway. Biden enters, Trump says farewell

By Gary Abernathy

Fox News regrets calling Arizona so early?

I have questioned the need for network decision desks, which make early calls on winners of various states instead of awaiting the result of total vote counts. Now, it looks like perhaps Fox News is regretting them, too.

USA Today reports that “two of Fox News Channel’s top executives involved in the controversial – but correct – election night call of Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden are out at the network.” Bill Sammon, senior vice president and managing editor at Fox’s Washington bureau, announced his retirement Monday, and on Tuesday politics editor Chris Stirewalt “was let go,” according to the story.

Sammon and Stirewalt had staunchly defended calling Arizona so early for Biden.

Stirewalt is from West Virginia, and I got to know him when I worked there in politics and he was a columnist for the State Journal. I always thought he was a knowledgeable person when it came to politics and an insightful writer.

But quick decision desk calls for states with razor-tight margins just contribute to bad feelings and controversies. They also serve no real purpose. Let’s start waiting until votes are certain.

Speaking of Fox, how ‘bout these program shakeups?

As if we don’t get enough arguing on cable news, Fox News surprised a lot of viewers this week with a lineup shift that has unceremoniously moved news anchor Martha McCallum from the 7 p.m. slot to 3 p.m., installing a new opinion show in McCallum’s old slot.

The Washington Post reported, “Regular viewers of Fox News’s early-evening hours might have been surprised to see one of the network’s highly opinionated morning hosts, Brian Kilmeade, holding forth Monday night with a broadside against ‘the big tech crackdown on free speech.’”

Don’t get me wrong, Kilmeade is actually one of the Fox News personalities I like best. He’s quick and clever, and has a nice knack for winking at the camera when silly things are happening. But it’s hard to argue that we need more opinion shows foisted on us from cable news.

“Fox’s 7 p.m. hour has traditionally been reserved for news coverage,” the Post reported. “But in a shake-up that has raised concerns within its news division, the network last week announced it would bump veteran anchor Martha MacCallum from that slot — part of a larger shift toward the conservative-leaning punditry programming that made Fox the most-watched cable channel in 2020.”

Kilmeade is one of six hosts who will get informal week-long tryouts, the Post reported. Others are Maria Bartiromo, Katie Pavlich, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Trey Gowdy and Mark Steyn.

The changes come amid a ratings battle that has seen improvement from CNN and MSNBC, and surprising numbers from upstarts on the right like Newsmax and One America News – both even more pro-Trump than Fox – making some inroads into the Fox audience.

Biden’s term begins after Trump’s final farewell

Around noon today, with the simple recitation by Joe Biden of an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, Donald J. Trump will no longer be president and Biden will assume that role. The transfer of power happens in the blink of an eye.

That’s what was always so confusing about the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. What did the pro-Trump rioters think they were going to accomplish? No matter what happened – no matter how much chaos was created, property destroyed, members of Congress forced into hiding or even lives endangered – nothing was going to stop Trump’s term as president from coming to an end and Biden’s beginning on Jan. 20, 2021. The electoral votes had all been legally certified by the respective states, with Biden winning. The counting taking place on Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol was a ceremonial formality of a fait accompli. It was irreversible.

Trump did his best to stage something along the lines of a dignified departure at Andrews Air Force Base Wednesday morning. But he had already squandered his opportunity to hand over the office with the dignity and patriotism and a fond remembrance of his presidency that his supporters deserved to celebrate.

I’ll always be glad Trump was president for four years. From judicial appointments to border security to rolling back job-killing regulations to pushing record-breaking development of a coronavirus vaccine to calling out a biased media, he tackled the job in the unapologetic way Republican rank-and-file voters have always wished a GOP president would do. Likewise, I’m glad Richard Nixon was president for the many great things he did. But it’s also right that Nixon was forced from office under threat of impeachment for his role in the Watergate affair. (Holding an impeachment trial for Trump after he leaves office would be the height of stupidity, and probably unconstitutional.)

I dread the political and cultural shift that Biden will bring to the presidency, from judicial appointments to individual freedoms (covid restrictions) to taxes to border security to reinstating job and energy-killing regulations, and on and on.  My disappointment is compounded by the knowledge that Trump could have won reelection if he had tried even a little to temper his insults and learned to at least fake empathy once in a while, as many politicians do.

But Trump disrespected democracy itself by refusing to participate in the time-honored peaceful transfer of power that has always defined the United States. Instead of an image of the Trumps welcoming the Bidens to the White House and accompanying them on the car ride to the Capitol to honor the installation of the new president, Trump leaves us with memories of a Capitol building occupied by an angry and violent mob whipped into a frenzy by Trump himself until they staged a violent incursion into the halls of Congress during a democratic process that Trump’s own vice president was leading, as constitutionally mandated. Tragic and sad, in light of what could have been.

See my additional thoughts on this in The Washington Post.