Ousted Fox News editor: Reaction to Trump’s loss a result of ‘informational malnourishment’
A former political editor for Fox News who was fired last week said the public reaction to former President Trump’s election loss is a result of “informational malnourishment.”
Chris Stirewalt, who had defended Fox News’s relatively early call that President Biden won Arizona, which proved to be accurate but infuriated Trump and his supporters, wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed published Thursday that the outrage over that call and Biden’s overall victory arose out of “a nation of news consumers both overfed and malnourished.”
“Americans gorge themselves daily on empty informational calories, indulging their sugar fixes of self-affirming half-truths and even outright lies,” he wrote. “Can anyone really be surprised that the problem has gotten worse in the last few years?”
Stirewalt, who had worked as an election forecaster on Fox News’s decision desk, said he was “proud of our being first to project” Biden would win Arizona on Nov. 3.
The former editor attributed the resentful reaction partly to “a cynical, knowing effort by political operators and their hype men in the media to steal an election or at least get rich trying.” But he also assigned blame to the never-ending news cycle, which he said prioritizes “indulging a consumer’s worst cravings” for their views to be confirmed — a form of “informational malnourishment.”
“Whatever the platform, the competitive advantage belongs to those who can best habituate consumers, which in the stunted, data-obsessed thinking of our time, means avoiding at almost any cost impinging on the reality so painstakingly built around them,” Stirewalt said. “As outlets have increasingly prioritized habituation over information, consumers have unsurprisingly become ever more sensitive to any interruption of their daily diet.”
Stirewalt wrote that journalists are responsible for reporting complicated stories with “skill and dispassion” but called on consumers to have “enough humility to be open to learning something new.”
Trump and his allies slammed Fox News after the network correctly projected Biden would win Arizona before other news outlets, which did not confirm the projection until days later.
After the network called Arizona and ultimately the election for Biden, Trump condemned Fox News and called on his supporters to flock to conservative outlets including OAN and Newsmax that had not yet acknowledged Biden’s victory.
For months, the now-former president spread unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him, calling his supporters to protest as Congress was set to certify the Electoral College results on Jan. 6. That day, Trump’s supporters rioted and stormed the Capitol, temporarily disrupting the certification and resulting in five deaths.
“What tugs at my mind after seeing a mob of enthusiastic ignoramuses sack the Capitol, though, is whether that sophistication will come quickly enough when outlets have the means to cater to every unhealthy craving of their consumers,” Stirewalt concluded his op-ed.
In addition to Stirewalt’s departure last week, Fox News Washington bureau chief Bill Sammon announced his retirement at the end of January, a spokesperson confirmed last week.
Fox News is navigating its post-Trump programming and announced shifts to its schedule earlier this month, including replacing its 7 p.m. news hour with an opinion show. That show has not yet named a permanent host.