Donald Trump reportedly rang Rupert Murdoch ‘in a rage’ on election night after the media mogul’s Fox News became the first to call the result in the key state of Arizona.
The often pro-Trump network projected Democrat Joe Biden had won in the swing state late on Tuesday night – before any of its rivals.
News agency AP has since called the state for Biden but others including CNN and the BBC have still not made a projection as the final votes are counted.
Trump’s supporters were enraged by Fox’s decision, leading to the man himself calling Mr Murdoch and demanding a retraction, according to Vanity Fair.
The magazine has reported Trump ‘screamed’ at the 89-year-old, who also owns The Times and The Sun newspapers in the UK, but failed to get him to back down.
Staff inside the television station said they feared worries about being seen as too pro-Trump meant they ‘bent over backwards’ to cover Biden’s results favourably.
Fox’s call on Arizona was a key moment on election night, which swung the dial back in the Democrat’s favour after he suffered defeats in other key states like Florida and Ohio.
On Thursday morning, Biden’s lead in Arizona narrowed to 68,000 with another 400,000 votes still to be counted.
Trump supporters, some of whom were armed, gathered outside the count to shout ‘count the votes’, contradicting Trump’s message in other states where he has called on vote counts to stop.
Fox and AP’s projection that Biden will win in Arizona means they both put his electoral college total at 264 – just six off the presidency. The more cautious approach towards Arizona favoured by other broadcasters has Biden on 253 to Trump’s 213.
Fox News’s election coverage led all networks with 14.1 million prime-time viewers, ratings data showed.
CNN finished second with 9.4 million from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST, followed by MSNBC with 7.6 million, according to the Nielsen ratings agency.
Mr Trump is a regular guest on Fox News himself and is said to watch the channel religiously. Many of the network’s commentators are passionate supporters of the president and his agenda.
As well as the early call on Arizona, Fox was more than five hours ahead of CNN on projecting Biden would take Virginia, and hours in front on other states.
It beat the Associated Press by 90 minutes on saying Trump would win the battleground state of Florida. None of those calls have been disputed.
Frank Sesno, a former CNN correspondent, said: ’Whether they were premature or right on time, the fact of the matter is that they were calling the races in the way races should be called, instead of through the lens that Trump would prefer. That’s their job.’
Their approach angered some Trump backers. Jason Miller, a Trump campaign senior adviser, and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey were among those saying Fox News acted too quickly. Fox News correspondent John Roberts said on air that the Trump campaign was ‘livid.’
Overall election night viewership slumped below 2016 when Trump upset Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Nielsen figures showed that roughly 56.9 million people watched this year’s prime-time coverage across 21 networks.
In 2016, 71.4 million people watched across 13 networks. The TV ratings do not include viewership via online platforms, which have jumped in popularity.
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