Fox News stunned viewers on election night by becoming the first network to call the state of Arizona for Democrat presidential hopeful Joe Biden.
It was a decision that many, including President Donald Trump himself, criticized as coming too soon, according to the Washington Examiner. The Associated Press didn’t call Arizona for Biden until hours later.
“Too early to call”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to win Arizona in 2016, meaning a win for Biden in the Grand Canyon state would mark a major turn-around and put Biden on a path to victory.
It seemed far-fetched as recently as Tuesday night. According to The Hill, the state’s governor said around midnight that it was “far too early to call” the race in Arizona. “Election Day votes are not fully reported,” Republican Doug Ducey wrote in a tweet, “and we haven’t even started to count early ballots dropped off at the polls.”
Despite this, Arnon Mishkin, the head of Fox News’ decision desk, soon declared the state a win for Biden.
“We made it after basically a half-hour of debating ‘is it time yet?’ because it’s been clear for a while that the former vice president is in the lead in Arizona and was most likely to win the state,” Mishkin explained on-air, according to the Washington Examiner.
“It has been in the category that we call ‘knowable but not callable’ for about an hour,” he added. “We finally called it right now. Yes, there are some outstanding votes in Arizona. Most of them are coming from Maricopa [County], where Biden is currently in a very strong position.”
“WAY too soon”
Of course, Mishkin’s defense didn’t stop Fox fans from taking to social media to express their outrage, with many pointing out that the network took a questionable amount of time to call the swing state of Florida for President Donald Trump, even when roughly 95% of the vote was counted and the remaining counties were in Trump-friendly areas.
Trump’s campaign was similarly left frustrated, with senior adviser Jason Miller immediately condemning Fox News for making the call on Arizona while votes were still pouring in, according to Vanity Fair.
“WAY too soon to be calling Arizona…way too soon. We believe over [two-thirds] of those outstanding Election Day voters are going to be for Trump,” Miller tweeted. “Can’t believe Fox was so anxious to pull the trigger here after taking so long to call Florida. Wow.”
Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders also called out the network during a live shoot, saying she believed the network’s decision on Arizona was a “premature call,” as Vanity Fair reported.
With many states continuing to tally up the results, only time will tell if early announcements like this one will hold. But if Fox and other networks do end up having to retract calls made on such a historic night in America, they’ll certainly have a lot of explaining to do.