US President Donald Trump reportedly berated Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch after the conservative network called the state of Arizona for Joe Biden on Tuesday night.
Trump called Murdoch, screamed at him and demanded he retract the prediction, Vanity Fair reported.
Murdoch refused and left the network’s declaration in place. Fox was the first major news outlet to call Arizona for Biden and while the Associated Press followed suit several hours later, other major outlets such as the New York Times had yet to make a determination as of Thursday late morning, although Biden was leading slightly.
The Fox projection on Arizona reportedly dashed a feeling of growing optimism in the White House, where officials were soaking in the results from Florida, which would be called for Trump later in the night.
In addition to Trump, Murdoch also received calls from White House senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and from political adviser Jason Miller.
Murdoch held his ground, leading Miller to tweet that Fox News was “trying to invalidate” the votes of Arizonans.
But Fox doubled down, sending out Arnon Mishkin — a Jewish registered Democrat from New York who is the leader and face of the Fox numbers team — on air at 12:30 a.m. to defend its Arizona call.
The decision on Arizona also stoked tension between Fox’s opinion staff, who heavily favor Trump, and its news section, the report said.
Trump has soured on Murdoch in recent months over the network’s election coverage, with the Fox News owner predicting to associates that the president would lose his reelection bid, according to Vanity Fair.
Trump spent Tuesday night and early Wednesday watching election results on Fox News from his residence at the White House, the New York Times reported. While there, he phoned several Republican governors including Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida, inquiring into the possibility that voter fraud had been committed in their respective states.
He continued calling supporters throughout the day on Wednesday, but according to the New York Times sounded “subdued and somewhat dispirited” to those he spoke with.
Meanwhile, White House staffers were beginning to question why they were apparently losing Arizona, with some lamenting Trump’s refusal to campaign as much in the state because he didn’t like traveling out west and having to spend the night on the road, the Times said.
Some aides said Trump’s decision to continuously attack John McCain, even after the death of the popular Arizona senator, was a factor.
As states like Wisconsin and Michigan were called in Biden’s favor and the Democratic nominee inched toward victory on Wednesday, Kushner began making calls in an effort to hire a “James Baker-like” figure to lead the Republican legal challenge to the election results, according to the Times. The former secretary of state successfully led the lawsuit demanding a recount in Florida that helped George W. Bush clinch the 2000 presidency over Al Gore.
However, not all in the White House have been on board with the president’s aggressive approach, which saw him falsely declare victory and charge mass voter “fraud” at a 2:30 a.m. press conference from the East Room on Wednesday.
A source close to the White House told CNN that GOP officials were beginning to lose patience with Trump after he baselessly claimed voter fraud was robbing him of the presidency.
Trump was “bleeding GOP support,” the source said, describing the president’s complaints as an “ambulance chasing routine.”
The source went on to criticize the Trump campaign for leveling charges of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, in particular.
Two days after Election Day, neither candidate had amassed the votes needed to win the White House. But Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states left him at 253, meaning he was one battleground state away — any would do — from becoming president-elect.
Trump, with 213 electoral votes, faced a much higher hurdle. To reach 270, he needed to claim all four remaining battlegrounds: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada.
Biden already had received more than 71 million votes, the most in history. At an afternoon news conference Wednesday, the former vice president said he expected to win the presidency but stopped short of outright declaring victory.
Agencies contributed to this report.