Fox News in a panic about election coverage after COVID-19 exposure – Business Insider

  • Fox News staffers are “in a panic” about election-night coverage after several of the network’s top hosts were exposed a COVID-19 patient and told to quarantine, a staffer told The Daily Beast on Monday.
  • Several top execs and hosts — including Fox News’ president, Jay Wallace, and chief political correspondent, Bret Baier — took a flight with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus.
  • An internal memo sent to staffers on Monday said the network would be paring down its in-person operations for election night after multiple positive cases, The Daily Beast reported.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Fox News staffers are “in a panic about election night” coverage after several of the network’s top executives and hosts were exposed to a coronavirus patient and told to quarantine, one staffer told The Daily Beast on Monday.

The New York Times broke the news about the exposure on Sunday, citing two sources who said the hosts and executives had taken a private jet with someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

The jet had been chartered by Fox News to take attendees at Thursday’s presidential debate back to New York, where the network is headquartered.

Fox News’ president, Jay Wallace, was among those on the plane along with the network’s hosts Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Dana Perino, and Juan Williams. Baier is the network’s chief political correspondent.

Those who were on the plane have been told to quarantine or get a coronavirus test, according to The Times. The Times added that the hosts who were on the plane would be working from their in-home studios for the time being.

The Daily Beast spoke with another staffer who suggested the exposure had thrown the network’s plans for election-night coverage “into chaos.”

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The Fox News headquarters on Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“It will be like starting from scratch … It’s not good for anyone,” the staffer said. “It’s insane that there’s a possibility the anchors will have to host the biggest night of 2020 from their homes.”

The Daily Beast also obtained an internal memo to Fox News staffers, written by Wallace and Fox News Channel CEO Suzanne Scott, saying the network would be paring back in-person operations and increasing testing after “a few” positive cases at the company. Mediaite published the memo in full.

“We know this election will be like no other and it will be exciting to witness it first hand, but only those employees who are critical to that night’s production will be permitted to work from 1211,” the memo said.

According to CNN, some of the Fox News personalities already had in-home studios before the pandemic, but the network installed dozens more in March when large parts of the country imposed lockdown measures.

CNN reported that Fox News’ programming in recent months had consisted of a mix of in-studio and at-home broadcasts.

Fox News’ coronavirus exposure also highlights a divide at the network, with some believing it had been acting irresponsibly in returning to in-person programming.

A source familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast it was weird for so many staffers to be sent to Nashville, Tennessee, for last week’s presidential debate when hardly any other networks had a large presence there.

“Last week in Nashville, [NBC reporter Kristen] Welker was the moderator. But NBC had almost no footprint. ABC had almost no footprint,” the source said. “But [Fox News] had a huge, huge footprint? Why is that?”

According to The Daily Beast, Fox News has been operating its in-studio operations in New York City and Washington, DC, with a skeleton staff of people who are regularly tested. But some staffers say they still feel on edge with little mask-wearing.

“In the elevators, everyone’s good about masks,” one source told The Daily Beast. “But in the offices, nope.”

When Business Insider contacted Fox News for comment on the initial news of the exposure on Monday, a network representative declined to confirm details of the exposure, citing privacy concerns.

When contacted again on Tuesday about the internal memo and the Daily Beast report, a spokesperson said: “We have multiple contingency plans in place and always have back-up plans for all kinds of scenarios, even without a pandemic.”

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