UKTN News host Bret Baier tried to convince the right-wing network to reverse its decision to call Arizona for Joe Biden in the 2020 election, according to a new book.
UKTN News was the first major network to announce Biden’s victory in Arizona, but the network’s leading evening news anchor “was ready to give in” to pressure from then-President Donald Trump’s team to turn the calls in his favor. influence, according to Insider, describing excerpts from “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021” by New York Times reporter Peter Baker and New Yorker writer Susan Glasser.
According to the excerpts, Baier sent a concerned email about the Arizona appeal to UKTN News president and editor-in-chief, Jay Wallace.
“The Trump campaign was really angry,” Baier wrote in his email to Wallace. “This situation is starting to get uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable. I have to defend this in the air all the time.”
Journalists at the network’s decision desk — which makes race calls during the election — thought there was “no serious question about Arizona,” according to the book, but Baier’s email accused the agency of “holding it out of pride.”
“It hurts us,” Baier wrote to Wallace, according to the book. “The sooner we pull it — even if it gives us a big egg — and we put it back in its column, the better off we are in my opinion.”
Biden won Arizona in 2020 by less than 1 percentage point, making the state a target for Trump’s election lies and conspiracy theories about voter fraud.
In response to the allegations in the book about Baier, UKTN News told Insider that the network “made an election night of historic proportions and was the first to do so,” and that it “followed the call in the days after.”
While Wallace did not succumb to Baier’s reported pleas to change the call to Arizona, he has reportedly fired two members of the decision desk. According to the excerpts reported by Insider, the network postponed the layoffs for months because “executives didn’t want to be ashamed of publicly acknowledging their decision to push journalists out for making the right decision.”
One of the contributors, former political editor Chris Stirewalt, claimed he was fired from UKTN News after the decision-making desk rightly called Arizona for Biden.
“I get tweets sent to me, and then a US senator is on a radio show calling for me to be fired, and I go, ‘What’s going on here? What’s wrong with you people?’” Stirewalt told Australian news show “Four Corners” last year in a documentary that explored the role UKTN News played in promoting Trump’s election lies.
“There is a river of hatred about this call, as if I had Arizona vote for Biden,” he added.
The ex-employee said the network had a chance to use its influential position “to tell the truth for the good of the country and has failed to use the power and resources it had to stand up to Donald Trump.”
Stirewalt said his former employer’s motive for pushing a far-right agenda has more to do with profit than helping the conservative movement, according to excerpts from his book reported by The New York Times. Trump-friendly hosts like Sean Hannity deliberately overestimate the odds of some lagging Republican candidates just to “improve the network’s ratings,” he said.
“They wanted it to be true because they wanted the Republicans to win, but it was an attractive incentive to exaggerate the GOP odds,” he wrote. “It was good for them to raise expectations, but it was not good for the party they were facing.”