Chris Stirewalt, the former Fox News political analyst pushed out after the 2020 presidential election, has landed at NewsNation.
The Nexstar Media Group-owned cable channel is announcing Tuesday that Stirewalt will serve as its political editor, the same title he held at Fox News.
Stirewalt will have a key role in the Chicago-based NewsNation’s expansion of its Washington coverage. Nexstar recently acquired the Hill, a digital political news outlet, and plans to use it as the basis of a new NewsNation program later this year.
“Chris is a fiercely intelligent and fair journalist who is going to deliver an enormous value to our viewers,” said Michael Corn, president of news programming for NewsNation.
The company also hired veteran columnist George Will as a contributor and recently entered a partnership with Decision Desk HQ, which will provide election and polling data and for the upcoming 2022 midterm primaries and general election.
When Stirewalt was fired from Fox News in Jan. 2021, he was told by the company that it was part of a restructuring. But his exit was largely seen as a response to the backlash the conservative-leaning outlet faced over its early call of Arizona for then-candidate Joe Biden on the night of the 2020 Presidential election.
Stirewalt was part of the election decision desk that projected the winner of Arizona and its 11 electoral votes for Biden just hours after the polls closed on election night. Donald Trump’s campaign protested the call — complaining directly to Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Fox News never wavered on the call, which was confirmed by the other major networks nine days later. But it was widely believed inside Fox News that some loyal viewers abandoned the network in anger over the decision.
“Partisan-oriented news outlets are not a natural home for dispassionate election forecasting,” Stirewalt said in an interview. “The problem for me at Fox was the audience did not like what I had to say. It wasn’t good news to them, and it seemed partisan to them.”
Fox News, the longtime ratings leader in cable news, briefly fell into third place behind CNN and MSNBC in the months after the 2020 election. It quickly bounced back into first and in many weeks, is the most-watched cable network in any genre.
At Fox News, Stirewalt helped coordinate political coverage and authored a daily newsletter, Fox News Halftime Report. He also co-hosted the podcast, “I’ll Tell You What,” with “The Five” co-host Dana Perino. He was also part of the network’s polling unit, which is well-known for its editorial independence.
Since departing Fox News, Stirewalt has been a contributor to the newsletter the Dispatch and appeared as a guest analyst on NewsNation. He also has a book coming out this summer called “Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back,” published by Hachette.
NewsNation was launched in 2020 with the intent of being an unbiased alternative to the increasing amount of opinion programming airing on established cable news networks such as Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
The channel’s positioning as a nonpartisan outlet was questioned early on, largely due to the presence of former Fox News executive Bill Shine as a consultant.
But NewsNation has hired executives and producers from a wide range of outlets and has been cited by several media watchdog organizations for its lack of bias.
“These people are sincere when they say they can make fairness pay,” Stirewalt said. “I’d be a jerk to say that’s what’s wrong with the American news media today and not be part of the solution.”
Although its audience is slowly growing, NewsNation is challenged in attracting viewers. The channel has drama and comedy series repeats in many hours of the day due to leftover contractual obligations from its days as WGN America, a general entertainment network.
The channel, which typically carries 9 hours of news programming a day, is still a year away from being a 24-hour service.
According to Nielsen data for the week of May 9 to 15, NewsNation averaged 59,000 viewers in prime-time.
But executives at Nexstar, which had record revenues in the first quarter of 2022 thanks to its TV station business, have stressed their long-term commitment to NewsNation. The company has cited the value of live news and sports to pay TV consumers, as viewers of scripted films and shows turn to online streaming.