Former Fox News editor: Network promotes “black-helicopter-level paranoia” for cash and ratings

Chris Stirewalt specifically called out right-wing host Tucker Carlson's news coverage

Published August 22, 2022 1:30PM (EDT)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Fox News host Tucker Carlson (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

On Election Night 2020, Fox News seriously scooped the competition when its decision desk, under Chris Stirewalt, called Arizona for Democratic now-President Joe Biden — a bombshell that confirmed how much of a swing state Arizona, once a deep red hotbed of Barry Goldwater/John McCain conservatism, has evolved into. And other media outlets subsequently confirmed Fox News' reporting.

Fox News' decision desk was ahead of other major media outlets when it came to Arizona and the 2020 presidential election results, and Political Editor Stirewalt was the person who, more than anyone, Fox News had to thank. But instead of giving Stirewalt a promotion, they fired him.

Former President Donald Trump and many other MAGA Republicans angrily railed against Fox News for calling Arizona for Biden, claiming that Arizona was stolen from him because of widespread voter fraud — a false claim that has been debunked time and time again. And Fox competitor Newsmax TV promoted itself as the cable news channel that was more pro-Trump and more right-wing than Fox News and Fox Business.

Stirewalt candidly addresses his termination in his new book, "Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back," which has an August 23 release date on Amazon. And according to a book excerpt discussed by journalists Blake Hounshell and Jeremy W. Peters in the New York Times on August 19 and by Tom Porter in Business Insider on August 22, Stirewalt is vehemently critical of Fox News for promoting nonsense conspiracy theories in the weeks following the 2020 election.

Hounshell and Peters report, "After a decade at Fox News, Chris Stirewalt was suddenly shown the door in January 2021, becoming a casualty of restructuring — or, at least, that was how Fox described his and other layoffs that swept out longtime journalists who were part of the network's news division. Stirewalt, who was part of the team at Fox News that projects election results and who testified before the House January 6 committee this summer, suspects there was a bigger reason behind his firing, which he explains in his new book, 'Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back.'"

Fox News has denied that Stirewalt was fired for offending Trump and his supporters; they have characterized the termination as simply a matter of corporate restructuring. But Stirewalt has his doubts.

Porter reports, "A network representative told Insider, in January 2021, that Stirewalt had parted company with them as part of a restructuring process. In his memoir, said the Times, Stirewalt alleged the network is playing a key role in the radicalization of the U.S. right, accusing it of spreading 'black-helicopter-level paranoia and hatred.' In the book, he says that during Trump's term in office, the network fed viewers what they wanted to hear, provoking the firestorm of criticism he encountered from Republicans after the Arizona call."

In an excerpt from "Broken News," Stirewalt accuses his former employer of telling far-right viewers what they want to hear — regardless of whether or not it is factual.

Fox News' former political editor writes, "Even in the four years since the previous presidential election, Fox viewers had become even more accustomed to flattery and less willing to hear news that challenged their expectations. Me serving up green beans to viewers who had been spoon-fed ice cream sundaes for years came as a terrible shock to their systems."

In recent years, opinion host Tucker Carlson has had some of the highest ratings at Fox News — even higher than long-time Fox host Sean Hannity.

Stirewalt, in "Broken News," writes, "Carlson is rich and famous. Yet he regularly rails about the 'big, legacy media outlets.' Guests denounce the 'corporate media' on his show, and Fox's CEO calls Carlson 'brave' for discussing controversial topics. Yet somehow, nobody even giggles. It does not take any kind of journalistic courage to pump out night after night exactly what your audience wants to hear."

By Alex Henderson

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