Bill Sammon and Chris Stirewalt out at Fox News
Two executives involved in the early call of Arizona for Joe Biden on Election Night, angering many conservatives, are no longer employed at the cable network whose ratings took a subsequent nosedive. Both have been lightning rods for conservatives since the election. The Associated Press reports:
Bill Sammon, senior vice president and managing editor at Fox’s Washington bureau, announced his retirement to staff members on Monday. On Tuesday, as part of a restructuring of Fox’s digital operations, politics editor Chris Stirewalt was let go.
Fox’s decision to call Arizona for Biden took the network’s anchors by surprise and infuriated the White House, which believed the determination was premature.
Stirewalt and Fox’s decision desk chief, Arnon Mishkin, were the two most visible people defending the decision on the air amidst heat from President Donald Trump and his supporters. Mishkin, who worked the election on a contractual basis, is not a Fox employee.
Two days after the call, Stirewalt said on the air that “Arizona is doing just what we expected it to do and we remain serene and pristine.”
He hasn’t been on the air at Fox since the post-election period.
The Hill reported Sammon’s retirement Monday night.
Bill Sammon, Fox News Channel’s senior vice president and managing editor in Washington, is retiring at the end of the month, a spokesperson confirmed to The Hill.
Sammon told staff during a morning meeting on Monday that he is leaving the network, where he has worked since 2008. It is not yet known if the position will be filled.
Prior to working for Fox, Sammon worked as a White House correspondent for The Washington Times, where he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He has also worked for The Washington Examiner.
Sammon's high level post as SVP made him likely very influential in setting the tone and substance of FNC's political coverage.
At lower levels, Fox News has been planning staff reductions for months now. The two derpartures are part of a larger pattern.
In September, Fox News announced a restructuring of some of its divisions, with a reduction of its workforce of less than 3%, or about 80 employees. At the time, the network said that they are “realigning several functions and restructuring various divisions in order to position all of our businesses for ongoing success.”
Fox News Digital had increased their employee base for the 2020 election, and the latest cuts reflect a post-election streamlining. The employees will receive enhanced severance and benefits packages.
The past year has seen reductions in the workforces at almost all of the other major networks.
Fox News Digital has released a statement:
“As we conclude the 2020 election cycle, FOX News Digital has realigned its business and reporting structure to meet the demands of this new era. We are confident these changes will ensure the platform continues to deliver breakthrough reporting and insightful analysis surrounding major issues, both stateside and abroad.”
A person familiar with the matter told Deadline that the realignment involved fewer than 20 job cuts.
Stirewalt's position as political editor made him important both on- and off-screen.
Stirewalt worked on the network’s Decision Desk in the most recent election cycle. Fox News drew the ire of Donald Trump and his supporters when the desk called Arizona for Joe Biden on election night. That was a signal that Trump would lose the election when all of the votes were counted, but the president insisted that evening that he had won.
Update: A New York Times article by Rachel Abrams and Michael Grynbaum states that Stirewalt was fired, according to 3 anonymous sources:
On Tuesday morning, Fox News fired Chris Stirewalt, the veteran politics editor who was an onscreen face of the network’s election night projection that Joseph R. Biden Jr. had defeated President Trump in Arizona, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
But a Washington Post article by Sarah Ellison refers to Stirwalt as being laid off:
...Fox laid off nearly 20 staffers Tuesday, including Fox News political editor Chris Stirewalt
The same article offers some anonymously sourced reactions:
While the decision desk is run by a contractor, Arnon Mishkin, who handled the statistical modeling of the desk, it fell to Sammon to determine editorially when Fox was ready to make its projection on air.
It was Sammon’s role that raised eyebrows in the aftermath of the call, Fox staffers told The Post. But it was Stirewalt’s dismissal that caused more consternation in the building, they said. “A major overreaction to Trump and the audience freakout,” said one staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment to American Thinker’s inquiry on Stirewalt's departure, citing employee confidentiality.
I interpret these two departures as a genuine response to viewer anger, perhaps signaling that further adjustments may be made in staffing or in editorial policies in an effort to win back the viewership that made Fox News the dominant force in cable news. But for its part, Fox News makes no such statement.