Former Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt appeared as a witness before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol on Monday.
Election night 2020 was a focus of discussion during Monday morning’s hearing—and Stirewalt was a key member of the 2020 Fox News Decision Desk that called Arizona on election night in favor of Joe Biden. Fox was the first major media outlet to call the state in favor of Biden—and the decision angered a significant segment of the network’s right-leaning audience, including then-President Trump. However, Fox News’ highly-respected Decision Desk ended up being accurate in its call.
“Did Pres. Trump have any basis to declare victory on November 4, 2020?,” asked committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson. “No,” responded Stirewalt.
“Our decision desk was the best in the business—and I was very proud to be a part of it,” Stirewalt told the committee. “We had partnered with the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Thanks to my colleague and friend, Arnon Mishkin, who had built a wonderful device for forecasting the outcomes of elections. So, we had a different set of data than our competitors do. We had more research and we had a better system—and we had a great team.”
Stirewalt, now the political editor at NewsNation, defended the network’s decision, calling their poll in Arizona “beautiful … it was doing just what we wanted it to do.” He added, “My boss [Fox News D.C. bureau chief] Bill Sammon said, ‘we’re not making any call until everybody says yes,’ because that was always our policy, unanimity. You have to understand, in this room, the best people from academia, Democrats and Republicans have broad cross section of people who had worked together for a decade.
“We’re really serious about this stuff. We knew it would be a consequential call, because it was one of five states that really matter. Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, Arizona, were the ones that we were watching. We knew a significant call [would be] any one of those five, but we already knew Trump’s chances were very small and getting smaller based on what we had seen.
“We were able to make the call early, we were able to beat the competition. We looked around the room, everybody says ‘yeah,’ and by the time we found out how much everybody was freaking out and losing their minds over this call, we were already trying to call the next state. We had already moved on to Georgia. We were on North Carolina. We were looking at these other states. So, we were pleased but not surprised.”
Stirewalt also discussed more general voting patterns. In swatting away Trump’s declarations of voter fraud, Stirewalt made clear that a delay in the early vote on election night was not out of the ordinary— and that there was simply more early and mail-in votes in 2020 because rules changed in various states due to Covid.
He explained the statistical impossibility of Trump’s allegations of far-reaching fraud and, when Rep. Zoe Lofgren, the committee member who questioned Stirewalt, asked if Trump had any chance of winning in a recount after Nov. 7 (the day the election was called by all the major media outlets for Joe Biden), Stirewalt responded that Trump was better off “playing the Powerball” than betting on winning the election after losing Arizona.
A week after losing his job at Fox News, Stirewalt defended his election night decision, saying in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that he “was proud of our being first to project that 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. Being right and beating the competition is no act of heroism; it’s just meeting the job description of the work I love.”