If you watched it last night as I did, it was one of the more interesting sideshows on cable news election night coverage. New York Magazine’s deadly danger man Gabriel Sherman goes behind the scenes of last night’s FNC Rove vs. FNC’s Decision Desk bruhaha. More amazing than Sherman’s story is the fact that FNC commented on the record at all. I thought Sherman was permanently radioactive for FNC…
Shortly before 5 p.m. yesterday, Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes assembled his network’s election team in a second floor conference room at Fox’s midtown headquarters to discuss the night’s coverage. He prepared them for the worst. “Guys,” he told them according to a source familiar with the exchange, “if things don’t go your way tonight, don’t go out there looking like someone ran over your dog.”
Six hours later, American Crossroads co-founder and Fox News contributor Karl Rove was on-camera seeming to ignore his boss’s orders. Shortly after 11 p.m., Bret Baier went on-camera to read a script written by Fox’s Washington managing editor Bill Sammon, based on an analysis by the network’s decision desk, announcing Ohio for Obama. “That’s the presidency, essentially,” Baier said.
Instantly, Fox phones lit up with angry phone calls and e-mails from the Romney campaign, who believed that the call was premature, since tallies in several Republican-leaning Southern counties hadn’t been been fully tabulated. “The Romney people were totally screaming that we’re totally wrong,” one Fox source said. “To various people, they were saying, ‘your decision team is wrong.’” According to a Fox insider, Rove had been in contact with the Romney people all night. After the Ohio call, Rove — whose super-PAC had spent as much as $300 million on the election, to little avail — took their complaints public, conducting an on-air primer on Ohio’s electoral math in disputing the call.