Journalism_History by wuzhengqin


									                                                                                Duprey     1

Patrick Duprey
Final Paper
Professor Todd Schack
History of U.S. Mass Media

                Shaping the Outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election

       At 2:16 a.m. EST on November 8, 2000, Fox News called Florida, and thus, the

presidential election in favor of Texas Governor George W. Bush. Feeling the pressure

to call the race after Fox, the four remaining networks—NBC, CNN, CBS, and ABC—

declared Bush the winner within the succeeding four minutes, forcing Al Gore’s

concession (Moore 42).

       Fox’s election call came directly from the network’s chief election consultant—

John Prescott Ellis. Ellis is the first cousin of George W. Bush, and he called the race

after speaking on the phone with his cousin and George W. Bush’s brother—Florida

Governor Jeb Bush (Carter). After the phone call ended, Ellis infamously shouted,

“Jebbie says we got it! Jebbie says we got it!” (qtd. in Moore 3).

       Shortly after 4 a.m. EST, the major networks all rescinded their Bush calls, and

for the second time in less than 8 hours, the media had to correct a miscall (Moore 44).

Previously, the networks had all prematurely called Florida for Vice President Al Gore

and were forced to rescind that call two hours later (Moore 37).

       The Associated Press and the Voter News Service (VNS) did not make the second

miscall, citing the VNS numbers that all the major networks also subscribed to as too

close to call (Moore 44). This prompted Al Gore to un-concede the election and

eventually led to controversial ballot recounts in Florida. Unfortunately for Gore,

because of Fox’s premature call and the ensuing chain reaction, many Americans had

already accepted Bush as the winner of the presidency, and popular opinion turned
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sharply against him (Carter). Thus, it did not come as a surprise when, on December 12,

2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the proposed Florida statewide recount

unconstitutional, ending the election in Bush’s favor (Moore 118). Because of this, many

election critics claim that it was Fox’s coverage that ultimately won the presidency for

Bush, who went on to be, in his eight years of service, what many political historians

consider one of the worst presidents in the nation’s history.

                            The Election’s First Media Gaffe

       Starting at 7:50 p.m. EST, the major networks began to project Gore as the winner

of Florida’s 27 electoral votes (Lewis). This call depended on the VNS calculations,

which were based on exit poll data from key precincts and vote counts from selected

precincts throughout the state (Moore 31-32). All of the major networks, excluding

ABC, and the VNS called the race for Gore by 8 p.m. EST (Marks, “Counting the Vote”).

ABC followed shortly, calling the race at 8:02 p.m. (Moore 82). Polls in Florida’s

panhandle, however, which stretches farther west than the rest of the state, had not yet

closed at 7:50 p.m. In fact, since the western parts of the panhandle are in the Central

time zone (and not the Eastern time zone like the majority of the state), the polls were

scheduled to remain open until 8 p.m. EST. As a result, the state had been called before

the polls had closed in nearly a dozen counties (Marks, “Counting the Vote”).

       That evening, CBS anchor Dan Rather assured viewers that when CBS declared

an election winner, viewers could “pretty much take it to the bank, book it, that that’s

true” (qtd. in Moore 38). He claimed that CBS was interested in accuracy, not speed,

saying, “Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go. We would rather be last in

reporting returns than to be wrong” (qtd. in Moore 38).
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       As the night progressed, the VNS numbers looked increasingly faulty. For

example, at 9:43 p.m. EST, the numbers showed Gore getting 98 percent of the vote in

Duval County. To put it in context, President Bill Clinton had only received 44 percent

of the vote in the same county in 1996 (Moore 36).

       At 9:54 p.m., CNN and CBS Election Night consultant Warren Mitofsky sent an

electronic note to the two networks, telling them to rescind the Florida call. By 10:15

p.m., ABC, Fox, the VNS, and NBC had all rescinded their original calls for Gore, citing

the same defective VNS data (Moore 37). As NBC anchor Tom Brokaw proclaimed,

“What the networks giveth, the networks taketh away” (qtd. in Seelye). Bush campaign

officials would later complain that the early call in Florida by the networks depressed

voter turnout in key counties even though the first call was made just ten minutes before

the polls were scheduled to close (Marks, “Counting the Vote”).

                             The Networks Fail Once More

       The next morning, on November 8, at 2:12 a.m. EST, the VNS data underwent a

peculiar transformation. With 96 percent of the Florida vote in, the VNS showed Bush

ahead by over 51,000 votes. In the five minutes leading up to this jump of 22,000 votes,

only 4,000 votes had been added to the VNS database. These numbers, which came from

Volusia County, first appeared at 2:08 a.m., and as they came in, Gore’s total in the

county dropped by more than 10,000 votes, yet Bush’s total climbed by nearly 10,000

votes. According to the new data, Gore would need to attain 63 percent of the estimated

179,000 votes that were left to be counted (Moore 41). This caused Mitofsky to say,

“Bush will win Florida,” but only “if the numbers are correct” (qtd. in Moore 41).
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       Moments later, at 2:16 a.m., Fox called Florida for Bush, but Mitofsky remained

cautious, saying, “Fox has an agenda, don’t forget” (qtd. in Moore 42). At 2:17 a.m.,

NBC called Florida for Bush, and upon hearing this, Mitofsky said, “We’ll do it, too,”

illustrating the pressure faced by the networks to not be last in line (qtd. in Moore 42).

Within 22 seconds, CBS and CNN had announced Bush the winner in Florida, and at

2:20 a.m., ABC became the last major network to project Bush both the winner in Florida

and the next president of the United States (Moore 42).

       Rather unequivocally announced the projected results, saying, “Let’s give a tip of

the Stetson to the loser, Vice President Al Gore, and at the same time, a big tip and a hip,

hip, hurrah and a great big Texas howdy to the new president of the United States. Sip it.

Savor it. Cup it. Photostat it. Underline it in red. Press it in a book. Put it in an album.

Hang it on the wall. George Bush is the next president of the United States” (qtd. in


       Brokaw, on the other hand, foreshadowed the upcoming debacle (Seelye). “That

would be something if [the] networks manage to blow it twice in one night” (qtd. in


       At 2:50 a.m., more VNS errors were encountered, for, in the prior 10 minutes,

Bush’s Florida lead had shrunk by 16,000 votes despite the fact that only 8,000 more

votes had been counted statewide. Two minutes earlier, at 2:48 a.m., corrected vote

numbers from Volusia County appeared in the database, giving Gore an extra 25,000

votes and Bush 9,000 more. These two corrections swindled Bush’s lead down to 11,000

votes with 25,000 more votes needed to be counted, but, despite being a much smaller

lead than expected, the state still appeared to be a lock for Bush (Moore 43).
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       At 3:03 a.m., Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris’s Web site, with 99.7

percent of the vote tabulated, showed only 4,600 votes separating Gore from Bush.

Seven minutes later, at 3:10 a.m., with 99.8 percent counted, the margin was only 569

votes on the Secretary’s Web site (Moore 43).

       The tide continued to turn at 3:40 a.m. when the VNS numbers showed Bush’s

lead down to approximately 6,000 votes with 16,000 left to be counted. Even though

these numbers suggested that Gore would need 68 percent of the remaining votes to catch

and pass Bush, it appeared to be a tossup because the remaining votes were mostly from

Broward County, where votes already tabulated had shown Gore getting 67.8 percent of

the selections (Moore 44).

       At 3:59 a.m., Mitofsky ordered CNN and CBS to rescind the Florida call for

Bush, and in the resulting minutes, the other networks all followed suit (Moore 44). As

Murray Edelman, editorial director of the VNS, had noted in a memo sent to all the

networks’ decision desks a week before the election, vote count can be off by as much as

one half of a percent. In the case of Florida, a state that cast about 6 million votes in the

2000 presidential election, that equated to an estimated 30,000 votes (Moore 28).

       Dan Rather retracted the results metaphorically, saying, “I’m always reminded of

those west Texas saloons where they had a sign that says, ‘Please don’t shoot the piano

player; he’s doing the best he can.’ That’s pretty much the case here tonight over this

election” (qtd. in Moore 45). Brokaw echoed sentiments of regret and embarrassment,

saying, “We don’t just have egg on our face. We have an omelet all over our suit” (qtd.

in Moore 45).

                       Voter News Service Becomes the Scapegoat
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       The Voter News Service was owned and operated by ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN,

Fox News, and The Associated Press (Marks, “Contesting the Vote”). In addition, The

New York Times also subscribed to the service even though it is not a member of the

consortium. The VNS compiles data from key precincts and feeds it to the networks and

the AP wire service, and, in turn, each of the news organizations then independently

analyzes that data (Marks and Carter). The service was designed to allow media outlets to

more accurately and quickly declare election winners (Lewis).

       The consortium was formed following the 1988 elections when the networks

decided that it was too expensive for all of them to do their own polling and projecting.

According to the estimates of Tom Wolzien, the former executive producer of NBC’s

“Nightly News” and network vice president, each network probably saved between $5

million and $10 million by pooling their resources in the 2000 election (Lewis).

Unfortunately, as Wolzien said, “We’re now seeing what happens when you bow to

budget-cutting pressures and end up with a single source that leaves you with no way to

compare and contrast different assessments” (qtd. in Lewis).

       Following the Election Night disaster, broadcasters jumped on the opportunity to

evade accusations of wrongdoing and decided to pin the blame on the VNS instead.

Appearing on Don Imus’s radio show, Rather said, “As far as I’m concerned, we have to

knock it [the VNS] down to absolute ground zero, plow it under with salt, put a barbed-

wire fence around it, quarantine it for a few years and start off with something new” (qtd.

in Moore 99).
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       On February 14, 2001, the congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce,

chaired by Louisiana Republican Representative Billy Tauzin, hosted the major news

executives in an attempt to diagnose exactly what went wrong on Election Night

(Seelye). In his opening comments at the hearing, Massachusetts Democratic

Representative Edward J. Markey gave the news organizations a pass (Moore 99). “The

problem, in my view, is not with the network news divisions or their anchors…but rather

with VNS. It is clear this flawed methodology and resulting shoddy VNS data misled the

network news divisions and caused many of the problems for the networks and their

Election Night coverage” (qtd. in Moore 99).

       The VNS certainly had its flaws, as its failures in prematurely calling the race for

Gore before the polls had even closed illustrated. In December 2000, the VNS’s board of

directors hired the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) to conduct a thorough investigation

of the service’s errors (Moore 100). The RTI team, headed by statistician Paul Biemer,

found four types of “system errors” (qtd. in Moore 100). For one, the service incorrectly

estimated the number of people who had voted before Election Day or voted via an

absentee ballot (Moore 100). Furthermore, the service also compared vote patterns with

inopportune elections, underestimated the size of the remaining, or outstanding, vote, and

vote tabulations from county reports were frequently erroneous (Moore 101). Also, aside

from the system errors, it was concluded that the VNS was not accurately using its

“margin of error” calculation (qtd. in Moore 101). Essentially, this indicates that, instead

of using the traditional 1:200 ratio as the “guideline,” meaning that analysts will refrain

from calling a race unless there’s only a one in two hundred chance of being wrong, the
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analysts were further underestimating the probability of making an incorrect projection,

especially with “incomplete data” (Moore 101).

       Clearly the VNS was responsible for the first miscall, yet that flawed projection

did not affect the election’s outcome. The prediction was retracted within two hours, and

there is no data to suggest that it played any role in keeping likely Bush voters from the

polls (Moore 91). In contrast, the second call was made by the networks themselves, as

the VNS and The Associated Press refrained from calling the election, citing a miniscule

0.6 percentage point difference between the two candidates (Moore 104). The difference

was continually declining, as well, according to the AP’s own additional vote count. At

1:02 a.m., Bush led by over 112,000 votes; at 1:31 a.m., the lead was less than 60,000

votes; at 2:12 a.m., the difference had shrunk to approximately 48,000 votes; and at 2:16

a.m., the time Ellis made Fox’s call, the margin had dropped to just over 30,000 votes,

with mostly Democratic precincts left to report (Moore 107-108).

                      Fox Decision Team: Rooted in Inexperience

       After the election, Ellis incorrectly touted his “almost 23 years of experience in

calling elections,” for he merely had 11 years of experience on NBC’s Election Unit from

1978 to 1989 (Moore 51). He did admit that he needed Cynthia Talkov, whom he

described as the “statistical wizard” of the Fox team, always by his side throughout the

evening (qtd. in Moore 51). Talkov was the only member of Fox’s four person decision

team that possessed extensive experience with the VNS’s statistical models, and,

according to Talkov, none of the three others seemed interested in learning how the

models worked. It reached the point where Talkov asked Edelman to meet with the

decision team and explain the basic elements of the VNS to the other three members—
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Ellis, John Gorman, and Arnon Mishkin (Moore 52). Gorman was the president of

Opinion Dynamics, the “polling firm contracted to do Fox’s regular public opinion

polling,” and Mishkin was a partner in the Boston Consulting Group who had worked

with Ellis at NBC (Moore 50).

       In a 2005 interview, reflecting on his experiences training the Fox team at

Talkov’s request, Edelman said that Ellis was “so arrogant, as though he knew it all.

When I talked with him, I thought ‘Whoa!’—he was so confident, but knew so little”

(qtd. in Moore 53).

       After 1:20 a.m., the Fox team was focused solely on Florida, and Ellis alleged that

he began using a “need/get” analysis, referring to how many votes Gore needed to catch

up to Bush and what percentage of votes Gore was projected to get in the remaining

precincts (qtd. in Moore 57). Talkov sat next to Ellis throughout the entire evening and

early morning, yet she has absolutely no recollection of such analysis (Moore 58).

       Even if he was actually calculating such a ratio, Ellis’s estimates were inaccurate,

as Gore’s “get” statistic remained virtually constant at 60 percent, yet his “need” number

continued to climb. The “get” percentage was also based solely on the percentage of vote

that Gore had already received in precincts in the applicable county, and it did not leave

room for variations in percentages (Moore 70). In addition, Ellis cited an eight

percentage point difference as the reason for calling the election, but if his “get”

percentage remained unchanged at 60 percent, such a difference was not accurate since

the VNS computer screens showed Gore’s “need” figure at 63 percent at 2:16 a.m.—the

time Ellis projected Bush the winner of the election (Moore 71).

               Family Ties: John Ellis, Jeb Bush, and George W. Bush
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       On July 3, 1999, John Ellis, son of Nancy Ellis and nephew of former President

George H.W. Bush, wrote an op-ed for The Boston Globe in which he declared that he

would no longer be able to write columns for the paper because of his relationship with

Bush (Carter; Moore 95). In the column, he said, “I am loyal to my cousin, Gov. George

Bush. I put that loyalty ahead of my loyalty to anyone outside my immediate

family…There is no way for you to know if I am telling you the truth about George W.

Bush’s presidential campaign because in my case, my loyalty goes to him and not to you”

(qtd. in Moore 50).

       This conspicuous conflict of interest did not stop the Fox News Channel from

offering Ellis a 30-day contract as an election consultant and the leader of the network’s

2000 decision team (Carter). Fox News President Roger Ailes defended the hiring after

the election, saying, “Mr. Ellis is the first cousin of President George W. Bush and

Governor Jeb Bush. We at Fox News do not discriminate against people because of their

family connections” (qtd. in Moore 50-51).

       On Election Night, Ellis abused the position, repeatedly calling both George and

Jeb Bush. According to Talkov, Ellis was one the phone on numerous occasions

throughout the afternoon, evening, and early morning, which even Ellis admitted to

(Moore 53; Carter). Ellis spoke to his cousins about exit poll numbers and Bush’s

chances of winning the presidency (Moore 53).

       Per Talkov, at around 2:00 a.m., Ellis spent time on the phone with Governor Jeb

Bush, who was, as Ellis said, “wired into Florida” (qtd. in Moore 58). Shortly after the

phone call, Ellis enthusiastically proclaimed, “Jebbie says we got it! Jebbie says we got

it!” (qtd. in Moore 59). With no objections from the other members of the decision team,
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Ellis instructed the network to call Florida, and thus, the presidency of the United States

for his first cousin—Texas Governor George W. Bush (Moore 59).

       On November 20, 2000, Ellis reflected joyfully on the experience in an interview

with The New Yorker, stating, “It was just the three of us guys handing the phone back

and forth, me with the numbers, one of them a governor, the other the president-elect.

Now, that was cool” (qtd. in Moore 47).

           Network Competition: The Reason Why They All Followed Fox

       When Sheldon Gawiser, NBC’s director of elections heard of Fox calling Florida

for Bush, he was on the phone with Edelman (Moore 72). Despite the fact that Edelman

discouraged Gawiser from calling the race in favor of Bush, Gawiser ended the phone

conversation by saying, “Gotta go. Fox just called it,” according to Edelman (qtd. in

Moore 72). Of course, at 2:17 a.m., NBC declared Bush the winner of Florida and the

presidency (Moore 72). Gawiser denies such allegations, but Edelman and two others

who were in his immediate proximity recalled Edelman advising Gawiser not to call the

race, citing his pre-election memo (Moore 73).

       After 2:17 a.m., when someone in the CBS/CNN decision room announced,

“NBC called Florida for Bush,” Mitofsky rapidly responded, saying, “We’ll call it, too!”

(qtd. in Moore 77). NBC made the call at 2:17:30, and CBS did so at 2:17:52, showing

only 22 seconds in between that contradicts the CBS report that states that the decision

team “took another 30 seconds [after NBC’s call] to finish their data check” (qtd. in

Moore 77).

       ABC then called the election at 2:20 a.m., not because of the advisement of their

election consultants, but because of the wishes of network executives. In fact, the ABC
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executives overrode the inclinations of their election consultants, who advised against the

network’s first call, as well, because of a formidable democratic bias in exit poll numbers

(Moore 82). As Alicia Shepherd later wrote in the American Journalism Review,

“Despite the misgivings of its experts, ABC’s team couldn’t resist the competitive

pressure, and ABC decision desk chief Carolyn Smith made the call,” referring to the

network’s first miscall (qtd. in Moore 82). ABC election consultant John Blydenburgh,

in regards to the second miscall that he warned against, said, “I know she [Smith] agreed

with me. But somebody [at ABC] called it anyway. I don’t know who. I wasn’t on the

telephone call” (qtd. in Moore 83).

       While network executives refuse to acknowledge competition as the chief source

of rushed projections, ABC News election consultant Christopher Achen disagreed.

When other networks began to call the race, Achen spoke of an intense sense of urgency

(Marks and Carter). “At that point, we are under tremendous pressure. It’s, ‘What’s the

matter with you guys? Why can’t you call this?’” (qtd. in Marks and Carter).

       A November 11, 2000, Time/CNN poll reasserted Achen’s statement, for 87

percent of respondents said that they believed that the media were more interested in

getting results out first than getting them out right, whereas only 10 percent believed that

the opposite was true. Additionally, the same poll showed that 79 percent of those

sampled thought that the media had acted irresponsibly on Election Night, and only 17

percent believed the news organizations acted responsibly (Polling the Nations:


                          Public Opinion Turns Against Gore
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       Before 3 a.m., after all the major networks had called the election for Bush, Al

Gore called the Texas Governor and conceded. He subsequently headed to the Nashville

War Memorial Plaza to deliver his official concession speech. However, upon hearing of

faulty electoral projections, the vice president called Bush to retract his concession

(Moore 5-6).

       In the following weeks and days, many in the media attacked Gore, labeling him a

“sore loser” who was, as Fox News commentator Sean Hannity coined it, attempting to

“steal the election” (qtd. in Moore 6). Hannity further stated in the network’s post-

election coverage, “The vice president because of his blind ambition has brought us to the

brink of a constitutional crisis” (qtd. in Moore 6). On November 8, NBC’s Tim Russert

called on Gore to “play statesman and concede” (qtd. in Moore 7).

       Many viewers, after hearing the networks call the election in favor of Bush, had

went to sleep with the knowledge that George W. Bush would be their next president

(Moore 6). Moreover, because many major newspapers, including The Boston Globe,

USA Today, New York Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer,

Washington Times, Sacramento Bee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Austin American-

Statesman, Miami Herald, Orlando Sentinel, and Tallahassee Democrat, among others,

reported that Bush had emerged victorious in their November 8 print editions, many

Americans woke up to the assumption that Bush was their next president (Moore 7).

Thus, a perception that “Bush was the winner, but now Gore was trying to overturn the

results” was created, solely ignited by Fox’s miscall (Moore 6).

       As Steve Luxenberg wrote in The Washington Post, “The networks’ call had a

huge psychological effect on the electorate and the candidates, with political and
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historical ramifications. Voters might have shrugged off a long count in Florida as an

acceptable delay in a contested election. But a ‘reversal’ fed the notion of a tainted

result, contributed to the overheated rhetoric on both sides…and helped fuel the sense of

a country in crisis” (qtd. in Moore 6).

       In the week after the election, Mark Fabiani, Gore’s campaign communications

director, said, “Fox has been an avowed enemy of the Gore campaign throughout the

election. To have a network like Fox call it and everybody follow suit was a

tremendously damaging thing. It took literally 24 to 48 hours to convince people that

Gore had won the popular vote” (qtd. in Carter).

       In a November 28, 2000, CBS News/New York Times poll, 41 percent of the

respondents said that their opinion of Al Gore was favorable, and 43 percent had an

unfavorable impression of the vice president. The same poll also showed that 42 percent

of the sampled population thought that Gore should concede the election, whereas only 3

percent felt that Bush should concede (Polling the Nations: CBS News/New York

Times). Many Democrats even followed suit. For example, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin

suggested that many in the Party did not want Gore to pursue further legal battles if Bush

had more votes than Gore after the initial selective county recount (“Florida Supreme

Court Backs Manual Recounts of U.S. Presidential Ballots, in Victory for Gore”).

       On December 8, the Florida Supreme Court ordered a “statewide recount of all

undervotes” (Moore 122). Gore’s luck did not last much longer, though, as the Supreme

Court of the United States agreed to the Bush campaign’s request for a stay, noting that

the recount was causing Bush “irreparable harm” (Moore 123). In Bush v. Gore, the

Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the statewide recount ordered by the Florida
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Supreme Court was unconstitutional and awarded Florida’s 27 electoral votes and the

presidency of the United States to George W. Bush (Moore 124).

           John Ellis and George W. Bush: The Theft of the 2000 Election

       After John Ellis erroneously called the 2000 presidential election at 2:16 a.m. EST

on November 8, the belief that George W. Bush was the next president of the United

States swept the nation. Consequently, negative perceptions grew surrounding Al Gore

and the conduct of his campaign even though a post-election study completed by the

University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center illustrated that more people in

Florida voted for Gore than Bush (Moore 5). These unfortunate realities created a hostile

environment that was not receptive to discovering the real winner of the 2000 presidential

election. According to the CBS News/New York Times poll, 40 percent of respondents

thought that more Florida voters intended to vote for Gore, and only 35 percent said

Bush. Despite this, 52 percent had “lost patience” in the post-election battle, and only 45

percent were “willing to wait” for the correct result (Polling the Nations: CBS

News/New York Times).

       In an interview aired in “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism,” John

Nichols, a longtime political correspondent for The Nation, said, “When Fox made the

call that Bush had won and the other networks followed on, that created the perception

that Bush was the winner, when, in fact, he wasn’t. But that perception was what really

held for the next 37 days, and I would suggest to you that that call on Election Night had

more to do with making George Bush president than any recount or ballot design issue”

(qtd. in “Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism”).
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       Fox executives later admitted that Ellis had abused his Election Night role with

the network (Carter). John Moody, the vice president of editorial news for the network,

said, “Just as we wouldn’t have expected him to tell us the details of a family dinner,

neither would we have expected him to provide information to one of the candidates”

(qtd. in Carter). Nevertheless, the damage had already been done, and the incorrect

perception had been created, manifested, and perpetuated.

       In fairness, John Ellis and the Fox News Channel were not alone in deciding the

2000 presidential election. The subsequent network firestorm in calling the election was

not in Fox’s control, nor was the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore to halt the

statewide recount, or Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris’s purge list that

unjustly kept tens of thousands of legal voters, specifically African-Americans and other

Democrats, barred from the polls (Moore 109). Despite all of the aforementioned

realities, without Fox’s call, George W. Bush would most likely never have been named

the 43rd president of the United States.

       Even though top network executives were summoned to Capitol Hill in February

2001 to testify in regards to their poor Election Night performances, little reform was

accomplished. The network executives did vow to refrain from making projections until

all the polls in the given state had closed (Marks, “Counting the Vote”). Previously,

races could be called if 75 percent of a state’s precincts had closed (Marks, “The 2000

Elections”). Despite the fact that all of the networks completed internal investigations,

no significant measures to curtail (network) competition were announced. In addition, as

expected, in 2002, the VNS, Election Night 2000’s scapegoat, was disbanded (Moore

133). The networks then created another (election) consortium within a year—the
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National Election Poll (NEP)—that continues to leave the decision-making power in the

hands of the exceptionally competitive network decision desks, virtually begging for a

repeat of the 2000 fiasco (Moore 135).

       On November 8, 2000, at 2:16 a.m. EST, John Ellis called the 2000 presidential

election based on a phone conversation with one or both of his Governor cousins. Never

before that night had a television network determined the outcome of a presidential

election, for that morning, John Ellis and the Fox News Channel secured George W.

Bush’s seat in the White House.
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       Little-Known Service Led to Wrong Call in Florida." The New York Times 9
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Marks, Peter. "COUNTING THE VOTE: THE MEDIA - ABC Tightens Its Rules On
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Marks, Peter. "THE 2000 ELECTIONS: THE MEDIA - A Flawed Call Adds to High
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