Karl Rove couldn’t believe it. After millions and millions of dollars spent on negative advertising, Republican attempts to suppress traditionally Democrat voting blocs, Romney gamely flipping and flopping on every conceivable position in hopes of encouraging at least one more low-information voter to vote for him on Election Day…it was a quarter past eleven and Ohio had just been called for Obama. What the heck was this?! It was inconceivable!
New York Magazine quotes FOX News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes’ advice to his news anchors: “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.””
Rove clearly hadn’t gotten the memo, or had decided that his employer, Ailes, was actually not the boss of him. Memo schmemo. The Romney campaign team apparently had not received the edict from Ailes either, and promptly blew up Foxphones and email inboxes with hysterical vitriol, demanding to know why FOX was not only calling Ohio for Obama but…horrors!…even saying Obama had won the election.
New York Magazine elaborates: “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.’”
Rove was getting an earful from the Romney crew as well, once they tired of screeching at the poll-watching flunkies hidden away in a tiny, depressingly bland meeting room, and Rove, frankly, seemed conflicted about which role he should play.
The New York Times reports:
Was he acting as the man who oversaw the most expensive advertising assault on a sitting president in history, unable to face his own wounded pride? The fund-raiser who had persuaded wealthy conservatives to give hundreds of millions of dollars and now had a lot of explaining to do? Or the former political strategist for George W. Bush, who saw firsthand how a botched network call could alter the course of a presidential contest?
Eventually he decided “attack dog” was most appropriate, and he vehemently disputed the decision to call Ohio for Obama at length. He later claimed that both he and Joe Trippi (a progressive political strategist) were very concerned that this might be a repeat of Election 2000, when FOX had called Florida for Al Gore prematurely…and then for George Bush prematurely. Both calls had to be rescinded, due to the Hanging Chads Nightmare, which was understandably rather embarrassing for the network.
As Rove continued to argue heatedly, and as other networks started calling Ohio and the election for Obama, too, talking head Megyn Kelly was dispatched to confront the FOX decision desk staffers face-to-face, and cameras followed her march down the halls to their conference room.
The New York Times reports:
So at 11:33 p.m., Megyn Kelly, an anchor known for her no-nonsense style, began her walk down the hall and did the questioning. The leader of the decision team, Arnon Mishkin, laid out its case, with some help from a more polished television presence, Chris Stirewalt.
“Arnon doesn’t do TV very often, and Megyn can be very pointed,” Mr. Clemente said. “So I said let’s have Arnon with the facts, and Chris — because he’s on TV every day — to put it in English.”
In English, the decision desk stuck to their guns. Obama had won Ohio, they called Ohio for Obama, Obama had won a second term as President of the United States, Obama won, yes, they were very, very sure. Forty-five minutes later, with other networks continuing to chime in to confirm, eventually even Rove had to face the facts–even if the Romney campaign would continue to drag its heels and balk before conceding–and he spent the rest of his on-air time twitching and slowly deflating like a leaky balloon. All that money raised! For nothing!
Rove never apologized for his on-air outburst, and when he appeared on Fox & Friends the next morning, not a single Fox employee even dared to bring the episode up. It was like everyone had been hit with the portable memory-erasers from the Men In Black films. Rove throwing a tantrum on live television? Huh? What tantrum? We don’t know what you’re talking about. Who is this Karl Rove of whom you speak?
The best news for liberals was that, for a brief and shining moment, FOX News was forced out of its hermetically-sealed counter-factual echo chamber and had to actually report some news that was 100% truthful, and it was a very bitter pill for the whole FOX gang to swallow indeed.
No word yet on whether Rove is going to have to flee the country to escape the wrath of some very angry billionaires who wound up wasting their money on this election. He should probably avoid flying in single-engine airplanes or walking alone through deserted public parks for a few weeks, though.
Here’s the video of the Rove meltdown: