7.02.2004

Fahrenheit Fact no. 24: Fox called Florida for Gore first; CBS was the first network to retract the Gore result

In Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore makes the assertion that the Fox News Channel was the reason that other networks began to call Florida for Bush instead of Gore:
NARRATOR: Did the last four years not really happen? Look, there's Ben Affleck. He's often in my dreams. And the taxi driver guy. He was there too. And little Stevie Wonder, he seemed so happy, like a miracle had taken place. Was it a dream? Or was it real? It was election night 2000 and everything seemed to be going as planned. Series of news clips: In New York, Al Gore is our projected winner. / The Garden State is green for Gore. / We project that Mr. Gore is the winner in Delaware. This state has voted with the winner in... / (Tom Brokaw interrupts) Mike, you know I wouldn't do this if it weren't big: Florida goes for Al Gore. / CNN announces that we call Florida in the Al Gore column. NARRATOR: Then something called the Fox News Channel called the election in favor of the other guy. BRIT HUME: Sorry to interrupt you; Fox News now projects George W. Bush the winner in Florida and thus it appears the winner of the Presidency of the United States. NARRATOR: All of a sudden the other networks said, "Hey, if Fox said it, it must be true."
Here's a timeline of the network projections, from an article soon to be published in National Review by David Kopel:
In fact, the networks which called Florida for Gore did so early in the evening—before polls had even closed in the Florida panhandle, which is part of the Central Time Zone. NBC called Florida for Gore at 7:49:40 p.m., Eastern Time. This was 10 minutes before polls closed in the Florida panhandle. Thirty seconds later, CBS called Florida for Gore. And at 7:52 p.m., Fox called Florida for Gore. Moore never lets the audience know that Fox was among the networks which made the error of calling Florida for Gore prematurely. Then at 8:02 p.m., ABC called Florida for Gore. Only ABC had waited until the Florida polls were closed. The premature calls probably cost Bush thousands of votes from the conservative panhandle, as discouraged last-minute voters heard that their state had already been decided, and many voters who were waiting in line left the polling place. In Florida, as elsewhere, voters who have arrived at the polling place before closing time often end up voting after closing time, because of long lines. The conventional wisdom of politics is that supporters of the losing candidate are most likely to give up on voting when they hear that their side has already lost. (Thus, on election night 1980, when incumbent President Jimmy Carter gave a concession speech while polls were still open on the West coast, the early concession was widely blamed for costing the Democrats several Congressional seats in the West. The fact that all the networks had declared Reagan a landslide winner while West coast voting was still in progress was also blamed for Democratic losses in the West.) Even if the premature television calls affected all potential voters equally, the effect was to reduce Republican votes significantly, because the Florida panhandle is a Republican stronghold; depress overall turnout in the panhandle, and you will necessarily depress more Republican than Democratic votes. At 10:00 p.m., which network took the lead in retracting the premature Florida result? The first retracting network was CBS, not Fox. Over four hours later, at 2:16 a.m., Fox projected Bush as the Florida winner, as did all the other networks by 2:20 a.m.
(Emphasis mine)