But Fox News and The Associated Press have, and it has become a serious point of contention between the news organizations and President Trump’s campaign — one that’s becoming more problematic for the news organizations as the week goes on.
By nightfall, pro-Trump protesters outside an election office in Maricopa County, Arizona were shouting “Fox News sucks.” The chant was heard live on a competing network.
Fox’s decision desk, staffed by statisticians and political pros, is defending the projection, even though Biden’s lead in the state has shrunk dramatically as counting has gone on.
The Associated Press also remains confident in its determination.
There are still hundreds of thousands of votes that still need to be counted across the state.
Fox was out in front when it called the state for Biden at 11:20 p.m. ET on Tuesday. The Associated Press followed at 2:50 a.m. Wednesday
Both news outlets understood the significance of the call: They were declaring that Arizona had flipped from red to blue. Trump won the state’s electors in 2016.
Their having projected Biden the winner of Arizona could place Fox and the AP in a precarious position on Thursday and Friday.
If Biden were to secure a victory in Nevada or Georgia and either news organization were ready to make that projection, one of those states combined with Arizona would put him over the necessary 270 Electoral College votes to secure the presidency by Fox and the AP’s counts. The outlets would then be forced to call the race for Biden — or pull back on their Arizona projections.
Trump was livid about the Fox call, in particular, and lashed out at the network, a source said. Kellyanne Conway and other Trump advisers also called Fox personalities to complain, according to the source.
Some of the complaints reached the top of Fox’s parent company: Jared Kushner was in contact with Rupert Murdoch over the projection, another source said.
Fox’s decision desk did not waver. On Wednesday night, decision desk chief Arnon Mishkin appeared on Fox and said “we are not pulling back that call.” When asked to respond directly to the Trump campaign’s claims about the demographics of the remaining voter count, Mishkin dismissed the hypothetical, saying, “If a frog had wings.”
But on Wednesday night, Fox hosts like Jesse Watters and Sean Hannity remained skeptical of their colleagues’ assessment. They talked on the air about Trump’s chances of winning the state and cherry-picked data points that seemed promising for the president.
As of Thursday morning, there was no indication of that happening. Arizona remained blue on Fox’s map. When Conway appeared on “Fox & Friends” and criticized the network’s call, co-host Brian Kilmeade said it was made by the decision desk, and “we stand by the Arizona decision.”
The Trump campaign escalated its attacks on Fox News over the projection on Thursday, sending an email personally attacking Mishkin as a “Democrat operative” who had “put his finger on the scale” to call the state for Biden.
The Associated Press explained its projection in a story Wednesday morning. The news outlet cited “an analysis of ballots cast statewide” that “concluded there were not enough outstanding to allow Trump to catch up.”
The state’s biggest newspaper, The Arizona Republic, also pointed out that some of the votes yet to be counted come from “very blue” counties. The paper quoted Paul Bentz, a Republican pollster, saying that Trump could still pull off a win, but it is a “tightrope walk.”
— CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed reporting.