At 7:49 on election night, NBC called the state of Florida for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore. Within eleven minutes, all the networks followed suit. Almost two hours later, they began to retract. At 2:16 am, Fox News channel called Bush the winner of Florida, and of the presidential election. As NBC anchor Tom Brokaw soon put it, “George Bush is the president elect of the United States.” Soon after, the networks had to take that prediction back.
Yesterday, CBS announced that it has formed a high-level panel to investigate Election Night internal procedures, making it the latest news organization to undergo a review in the wake of highly publicized blown calls during election coverage. CNN, ABC, CBS and Fox have said that they are also reviewing Election Night procedures.
The networks relied on a joint polling group called the Voter News Service (VNS), a consortium that provides exit poll information to five major networks and The Associated Press. Voters News Service called the state of Florida for Gore before all the polls had closed. CNN says it has initiated an immediate review of all procedures relating to the VNS.
Meanwhile, Fox News Channel is investigating whether one of their top election night decision-makers who is a first cousin of George W. Bush provided him with insider exit poll data obtained from the Voters News Service. John Ellis was the director of Fox’s decision team on election night and was responsible for interpreting election data and helping Fox News
- Steve Rendall, from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).