Late Tuesday, after Fox’s decision desk initially called the state for Biden, Mishkin gave an interview to his own colleagues to say that even though there were more votes coming in, “the president is not going to be able to take over and win enough votes to eliminate” Biden’s lead.
The Trump campaign immediately objected to the call, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, got in touch with Rupert Murdoch, whose family controls Fox News’s parent company, according to people familiar with the exchange. Trump himself did not complain to Murdoch. “If he had, I would not have interfered or changed our call,” Murdoch wrote in an email to The Washington Post. Fox was alone in calling the state, and the more time has passed, the more public — and personal — the Trump campaign’s objections have become.
Late Thursday morning, the Trump campaign’s rapid response operation sent out a tweet that criticized Mishkin and included a screenshot of his donation history, which shows that he donated more than $1,500 to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. More recently, he gave $50 to the Democratic voting platform ActBlue in May 2019. Some of his political donations have gone to Republican candidates. Mishkin has been an analyst on Fox’s decision desk since 1998 and started running it ten years later, in 2008.
The campaign went even further in an email blast, calling Mishkin a “Democrat operative” and a “Clinton-voting, Biden-donating Democrat.” The campaign is correct in saying that Mishkin has donated to Democrats and voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election — but Mishkin has been public with this information, disclosing it to the New York Times in September.
It’s unusual for a political campaign to be directing such animus at a decision-desk analyst. Every television news network has an independent team like this that tabulates voting counts and makes predictions about state victories. Still, because of the perception that Fox is pro-Trump, its decision-desk operation has drawn outsize attention since well before the election.
Mishkin, for his part, has not backed down, and has made several appearances on Fox News to defend the call. When one host noted Wednesday that the Trump campaign maintains that it has the votes to overtake Biden in Arizona, Mishkin retorted: “If a frog had wings.”
The Associated Press, which works with the same data firm as Fox and is using the same numbers to analyze the vote, has also called Arizona for Biden. On Thursday, two Fox News hosts — Brian Kilmeade and Bill Hemmer — told viewers that the network is standing by its call in the state.
After former White House counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway criticized the network’s Arizona call in an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, Kilmeade responded: “That was a decision desk decision. And, you know, we stand by the Arizona decision. But that’s done by the decision desk.”
On election night, Fox News set a record for the highest Election Day prime-time viewership totals in cable news history, according to Nielsen. Between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Tuesday, 14.1 million viewers tuned in to Fox News. The next most-watched channel on election night was CNN, with 9 million viewers in the same time period. Fox’s viewership has consistently outstripped its rivals. Even the top broadcast networks drew less than half the audience of Fox.
The Fox News Channel did not respond to a request for comment about the campaign’s attacks on Mishkin, who is not a network employee but runs the decision desk as a consultant.