Fox News went to war with its own decision desk on Election Night.When Fox called Ohio for President Obama, its own pundits objected. "I gotta tell ya," Chris Wallace said, "the Romney camp has real doubts about the call that was made by us, and I guess other networks, about Ohio... I just got an email from a top Romney person. I said, 'Do you agree with our call? They said, 'Not really.'" The camera continued to pan over jubilant Obama crowds, but Karl Rove in particular wasn't having it. This was delicious historical irony for anyone who remembers the 2000 election, when Rove was masterminding the George W. Bush campaign and the Fox News Decision Desk played, at least according to Al Gore supporters, a somewhat decisive role. See, at the time, the desk included John Ellis, who is a first cousin to George W. and his brother and then- Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. While all the other networks held back on calling Florida, the Fox News decision desk, after Ellis shared some info with his Bush family relatives, called Florida for Bush a little after 2 a.m., and, again according to Democrats, teed up the Bush argument that the Gore-Lieberman campaign's attempt to count ballots was just a "Sore-Loserman" tactic.
Tonight the call did not go Rove's way, and Rove knows what happens once a call is made -- media momentum that's nearly impossible to reverse. "I just don't think we can call a state with 991 votes between the candidates," Rove said. He was so upset that the Fox talking heads desk dispatched Megyn Kelly to confront Fox's own Decision Desk -- basically, the nerd desk, where less glamorous souls crunch the numbers. What happened next was election night's most amazing bit of television.
Supporters at Romney HQ started feeling sad.
The team conferred.
There was only one thing to do: Accept defeat. Haha, just kidding. There was only one thing Fox could do: Confront the nerds.
Megyn Kelly left the studio to talk to the Decision Desk about why they made such a call. She walked with calm determination.
She set off toward a network of hallways that will transport her to the nerds.
She approaches her first gauntlet of nerds.
But these aren't the big nerds. These are little nerds. The big nerds are deeper in the bowels of Fox. She had to coax the cameramen to come along.
She lost sound in her earphone, but she soldiered on until she penetrated the nerds' lair.
"Are you comfortable with your call in Ohio with the doubts Karl Rove just raised?" "We're actually quite comfortable with the call," the nerds replied. Oh.
"Right now there's too much [vote for] Obama," Nerd 1 says, for Romney to make up the difference. "Yes, there are a number of counties out there that will come in for Romney, but the largest thing outstanding right now is the Cleveland area..." Nerd 2 chimes in: "There just aren't enough Republican votes left... Cleveland is so overwhelmingly Democrat... as the vote comes in we would expect the president's margin to rise."
But what about Karl Rove?! "Explain his theory and why you disagree with it." Nerd 2 explains, "It's not that I disagree with it." But the handful of Republican precincts can't overwhelm the Democratic votes still to come.
But but but! What about the exit polls? "Could this be an exit poll thing?" Kelly asks. The exit polls were so wrong in 2004.... "What we're looking at is actual raw vote... What we're seeing is sufficient vote in Ohio on the Democratic side to say that Ohio will go for Obama." Megyn asks, And you're certain? "99.95 percent."
"They seem very confident," Kelly says, not entirely confident in the nerds.
Here is video of the segment that sent Kelly on her long walk.
And here is Kelly grilling the decision desk.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.