Obviously, the biggest political story Tuesday night was the elections in New Jersey and Virginia, where Democrats swept several major races and gained seats in both legislatures. In Maine, voters approved a ballot question to expand Medicaid, an important element of Obamacare, and something Republican Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed several times. Democrats also won the mayoral race in Manchester, N.H., took over the state Senate in Washington, and outpolled Republicans in a Delaware County Council election for the first time in history.
Mike DuHaime, a top political adviser to Gov. Christie, called the election results “a rejection of the president,” and CNN host and Philadelphia native Jake Tapper said that perhaps even more than Trump, the results Tuesday night were a rejection of “Trumpism.”
Both CNN and MSNBC had nonstop coverage of the election results all night, breaking in to cover President Trump’s address to the South Korean National Assembly. But if watching Fox News, you might have missed news of the election, because its prime-time opinion talkers, nearly all vocal supporters of Trump’s, largely ignored it when results began to show a big night for Democrats.
It began just before 9 p.m. Almost immediately after host Tucker Carlson reported that the gubernatorial race in Virginia appeared close between Democratic candidate Ralph Northam and Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, Carlson’s enthusiastic tone turned somber when he was forced to report that Fox News was projecting Northam would win the race.
Harrowing, bracing moment when Tucker Carlson shapeshifted into an actual sad trombone and was forced to declare Northam the winner. pic.twitter.com/LmzsBB7RYT
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) November 8, 2017
At 9 p.m., Carlson handed over Fox News’ coverage to colleague Sean Hannity, who said just 14 words about the election before moving on to other topics.
“Those results in Virginia, New Jersey, and New York — not states Donald Trump won,” Hannity said.
Sean Hannity's election coverage pic.twitter.com/l8DNJbfVRq
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) November 8, 2017
Hannity, who earlier Tuesday evening said he planed to cover the election results on his show, spent a total of six seconds on the subject during his hour-long program.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) November 8, 2017
After that, Fox News would go more than 100 minutes before even mentioning the night’s elections again. Hannity spent a bulk of his show previewing and then airing Trump’s speech in South Korea, at one point defending the president’s use of the term “Rocket Man” to describe North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as an example of “strength.”
“Easy to just mock Hannity for this, but it’s more important than that,” noted CNN media editor Alex Koppelman. “A whole universe of people who won’t be told about important news. An alternate reality.”
At 10 p.m., new Fox News host Laura Ingraham led her show with coverage about the civilian armed with a rifle who intervened in a shooting at a Texas church on Sunday that killed 26 people. She also mocked critics of politicians calling for prayers in the wake of the shooting, questioning why liberals are “so offended and bothered by prayer.”
leading ingraham's show pic.twitter.com/GS3BHiyKZ4
— chris hooks (@cd_hooks) November 8, 2017
About 10:52 p.m., Ingraham finally dove into the results of the Virginia gubernatorial election, where she told the Washington Examiner’s Byron York that Gillespie lost because he didn’t run as a “populist conservative” and “never jumped on board the Trump train.”
“What if Gillespie had campaigned on preserving our history… Virginia first, law and order?” Ingraham asked.
Fox News Tonight host Shannon Bream continued the trend into the network’s 11 o’clock hour. While she did cover the election results in one segment, the main focus was thrown to several nonelection stories about Democrats, including coverage of the firm behind the controversial Trump dossier.
Fox RN pic.twitter.com/WpfPKco92A
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) November 8, 2017
What Fox News decides to cover is important because recently the network was able to take back the No. 1 ranking in prime time in terms of total viewers, according to numbers obtained from Nielsen. Fox News prime-time programs also made up five of the top 10 cable telecasts in total viewers last week, according to TV Newser.
By comparison, Fox News’ sister station Fox Business Network had special election coverage Tuesday night that began at 8, anchored by Cavuto: Coast to Coast host Neil Cavuto. But Fox Business reaches a fraction of the evening viewers who tune in nightly to Fox News.
Political reporter Chris Hooks, who has written for Rolling Stone, the Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications, watched all of Fox News’ prime-time coverage of last night’s elections and came away disheartened.
“Say what you will about msnbc, but had Northam lost they would have had a full five hours of ‘Democrats in disarray; s—,” Hooks observed. “This is like East German television.”