Did Fox news have a conflict of interest in calling the florida election 2000 too early in favor of George Bush?
According to former Gallup pollster David Moore author of "How to Steal An Election," this in fact did occur.
According to Moore the conservative media outlet Fox News offered partisan coverage of the florida 2000 election. Political pundits on the program lambasted Gore as a "sore loser" who tried to "steal" the election and that he was creating a "constitutional crisis." Equally important to mention was that Fox news was the first to declare bush the winner despite a completed tally of votes in the democratic voting counties of palm beach, miami dade and broward counties. John Ellis who is George W. Bush's cousin was Fox News's election result decision maker. (9-10) This led the other networks to follow suit in their predictions. Moore argues this also influenced the supreme court's ruling.
. According to former Congressman Peter Deustch in delivering testimony House committee on energy and commerce 2/14/2001 said that "The supreme court's political decision of stopping the counting of the votes was influenced by the missed [missed network] calls of calling bush the president. If there was no winner after november 7th the , I think the political decision very well might have been different"(8)
It turns out that Fox news gets its stastical polling data from VNS. However, Murray edelman VNS's editorial director sent a memo to Ellis at fox news that he thought their interpretations of VNS data on the election relied to much on exit polls and not actual vote count. According to Edelman's statistical modeling scenarios this would create a error variance of 30,000 votes even if 99% of the vote is counted.(28) Both edelman and Warren Mitofsky of CBS voter research and surveys had said exit polls are not reliable. Both voter survey companies had conflicting data results and neither side had a uniform ruling on the data. Fox in a hurry to be the first TV network to call the elections chose the conservative estimate.
As I mentioned before Ellis was in charge of Fox's exit poll projections. Moore argues he had little understanding of stastistical models used in polling partial vote count. The method used was random sampling which is not always representitive of larger populations. (55) Also the statistical models were based on the probability that election results would closely mirror the 1998 gubenatorial election and not the 1996 presidential election. People's voting habits vary widely in state and federal elections though common patterns can be discerned when the sampling focuses on the same type of election. Moore argues this would have narrowed the gap between Bush and gore. (56)
Moore then argues that later on Ellis no longer relied on VNS (Voter News Service) data and instead was relying on polling information from Govenor Jeb Bush's office to arrive at need/get ratio vote prediction.(58) Yet VNS did not provide evidence that Bush was going to win florida at 2:15 am election night. VNS showed Gore trailing Bush by 50,000 votes yet outstanding ballots from broward and palm beach counties had yet to be counted. These counties traditionaly vote democrat. Murray edelman refused to call the election and tried to dissuade NBC from calling the election. (67)
Yet according to Moore conflicts of interest abounded when Fox news election pundit Ellis was in contact with Bush on the night of election 2000. Moore says this violated Fox News's own rules regarding confidentiality and that this influenced Ellis's vote projection. The problem wasn't just with fox, all of the other major networks were contacting politicians to get vote projection information. (68) Moore argues that these partisan sources caused the networks to disregard all of CBS voter News service and VNS's polling data. (72) By 2:30am all the networks except the AP called the election for Bush. It should be noted that VNS became the scapegoat for the bungled early call for Gore and then later for bush because the VNS board of directors which are comprised of all the major network executives imposed a gag order on all employees. (98)
Furthermore Robert Ellis of Fox news Bush's cousin violated his contract with Fox news by sharing information with both Jeb and george bush on election night. (96) Fox's filthy internal memo found no evidence of wrong doing. It should be noted that fox news is owned by Rupert Murdoch a major contributor and ideological friend of Bush. Fox's news corporation's internal investigation framed VNS for the polling data errors when in fact there was a conflict of interest and a desire to grab ratings as well as partisanship at that company.
The problems stemmed from the subjective nature of the caculation of the standard Margin of error estimate which shows the probability that a given projection will be wrong. Conservatives would like to argue that VNS's early call for Gore affected voter decision making in fact it had little impact because it was not widely covered in the media.(103)
Once VNS became aware of the problem it hired an independent audit firm From RTI a virginia based company. RTI did not find that the full blame for the exit poll miscalls did not rest with VNI or Or Mitofsky of CBS voter news service alone. Mitofsky the father of the exit poll system got caught on the election race bandwagon directed by the network executives.(102-104) RTI and VNS's editorial director did not support Mitofsky's call on the data which then led to Fox's prediction of the race. It should be noted Mitofsky died of 2 gunshot wounds to the head allegedly reported to be self inflicted a couple of years afterwards.
Furthermore Shortly before Ellis of fox news made his prediction Bush's lead dropped in the polls according to the AP's exit polls and vote count estimates. At approximately 1:02 am bush led by 112,000 votes. Then at 1:31 the lead was down to less than 60,000 votes as democrat voting counties in florida began to cast their votes. At 2:16 am fox declares bush the winner despite final tallies in palm beach, miami dade and broward counties. The Ap showed that Bush's lead was down to 48,000 @ 2;12 am. 4 minutes later bush's lead dropped to 30,000 votes. Fox's call was premature and partisan since the aforementioned counties had not finished their vote tallies. (108)
According to Greg Palast and Melanie Eversley of the Palm Beach post, in the article, "Firm says florida was warned about voters being denied, 4/9/2001" Jeb bush had Database technologies (choicepoint) gerrymander the 2000 elections. This no doubt influenced fox news executive Ellis's call since he was Bush's cousin. In all 57,700 eligible voters were barred form voting because they were erroneously classified as felons when in fact they were not or they had their civil rights restored in another state before coming to Florida. (109) Moore and Greg palast's analyisis show that 90% of those denied were innocent.(109) The US Civil rights commission also found the same pattern of discrimination by DBT's rigged scrub list for felons. DBT also knew full well that the errors were occuring. According to palast and moore the blame for this falls on James Lee of ChoicePoint a Atlanta based vote tabulation firm. More to come....