Jan 6. hearing: Former Fox News editor Chris Stirewalt defends​ election night call for Arizona

Appearing at Monday's House select committee hearing on the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, former Fox News politics editor Chris Stirewalt defended the network's decision to announce that Joe Biden was projected to win in Arizona on election night in 2020. Stirewalt also told committee members, "You're better off to play the Powerball" than for the results to have changed after Biden had been projected the winner nationwide on Nov. 7, 2020.

Video Transcript

ZOE LOFGREN: Mr. Stirewalt, you were at the decision desk at Fox News on election night, and you called Arizona early for President Biden, which was controversial. How did you make that call, and where did you think the race stood in the early hours of the next day?

CHRIS STIREWALT: Well, it was really controversial to our competitors, who we beat so badly by making the correct call first. Our decision desk was the best in the business, and I was very proud to be a part of it. Because we had partnered with the Associated Press and the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, thanks to my colleague and friend Arne in Michigan, had built a wonderful device for forecasting the outcomes of elections. So we had a different set of data than our competitors did. We had more research, and we had a better system, and we had a great team.

So what you're waiting to see is do the actual votes match up with the expectations in the poll. The real votes are testing the quality of your poll in targeted precincts and in targeted places. And let me tell you, our poll in Arizona was beautiful. And it was doing just what we wanted it to do, and it was cooking up just right. And at some point-- and I forget exactly who-- but at some point, it became clear that Arizona was getting ready to make a call.

So we around-- you know, my boss, Bill Sammon, said, we're not making any call until everybody says yes, because that was always our policy, unanimity. And you have to understand, in this room, you have the best-- people from academia, Democrats, Republicans, a broad cross-section of people who had worked together for a decade, who are really serious about this stuff. So we knew it would be a consequential call because it was one of five states that really mattered, right? Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona were the ones that we were watching. We knew it would be significant to call any one of those five. But we already knew Trump's chances were very small and getting smaller based on what we had seen.

So we were able to make the call early. We were able to beat the competition. We looked around the room. Everybody says yay, and on we go. And by the time we found out how much everybody was freaking out and losing their minds over this call, we were already trying to call the next state. We had already moved on. We were into Georgia. We were into North Carolina. We were looking at these other states. So we thought it was-- we were pleased but not surprised.

ZOE LOFGREN: I see. After the election, as of November 7, in your judgment, what were the chances of President Trump winning the election?

CHRIS STIREWALT: After that point?


CHRIS STIREWALT: None. I mean, I guess there-- you could-- it's always possible that you could have a truckload of ballots be found somewhere, I suppose. But once you get into this space-- you know, ahead of today, I thought about, what are the largest margins that could ever be overturned by a recount and the normal kind of-- the kind of stuff that we heard Mike Pence talking about, sounding like a normal Republican that night, when he said, you know, we'll keep every challenge-- nothing like that. In a recount, you're talking about hundreds of votes.

When we think about calling a race, one of the things that we would think about is, it outside the margin of a recount? And when we think about that margin, we think about-- in modern history, you're talking about 1,000 votes, 1,500 votes at the way, way outside. Normally, you're talking about hundreds of votes, maybe 300 votes that are going to change.

So the idea that through any normal process in any of these states-- remember, he had to do it thrice, right? He needed three of these states to change. And in order to do that, I mean, you're at an infinite-- you're better off to play the Powerball than to have that come in.