Date: 14th November 2000
A first cousin of George W. Bush headed Fox News's election-night decision desk and recommended calling Florida -- and the election -- for Bush, making Fox the first network to do so, according to The New Yorker. "Everyone followed us," the cousin, John Ellis, told the magazine.
Indeed, the other networks, NBC, CBS, CNN and ABC, followed within four minutes. Less than two hours later, however, the networks retracted their decision and reported that the state -- and the election -- remained undecided.
In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Washington Post, Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said: "The notion that you'd have the cousin of one presidential candidate . . . in a position to call a state is unthinkable. Fox's call precipitated all the other networks' calls. That call -- wrong, unnecessary, misguided, foolish -- has helped create a sense that this election went to Bush, was pulled back and he is waiting to be restored."
According to the New Yorker, Ellis was on the phone throughout the night with the candidate and Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, giving them updates on the vote count. Nevertheless, Fox Vice President John Moody denied that there was any "appearance of impropriety" in Ellis's actions "as long as he doesn't behave improperly, and I have no evidence he did."
Source: Studio Briefing