Fox News has been planning its election night coverage for weeks, prepping staff and on-air talent for the biggest news night of the year. But now Fox faces uncertainty after the network’s president and many of its key on-air stars may have been exposed to COVID-19.
“Everyone is in a panic about election night,” said one current Fox News staffer.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that top Fox News executives and talent will quarantine and get tested after flying on a network-chartered flight from Nashville to New York—following Thursday night’s presidential debate—with a staffer who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Passengers included network president Jay Wallace and on-air political hosts and analysts like Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Dana Perino, and Juan Williams. (A Fox News spokesperson would not confirm the Times story or the exposure, citing employee confidentiality.)
All four of those stars were expected to play key in-studio roles for Fox’s election-night coverage. But now it’s unclear how the network plans to proceed with its top talent potentially unable to gather in the same room.
“I believe it will put election night-plans into chaos,” another current Fox staffer told The Daily Beast under condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. “It will be like starting from scratch… It’s not good for anyone.” The employee added: “It’s insane that there’s a possibility the anchors will have to host the biggest night of 2020 from their homes.”
“We have multiple contingency plans in place and always have back-up plans for all kinds of scenarios, even without a pandemic,” a Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
In a Monday internal memo obtained by The Daily Beast, Wallace and CEO Suzanne Scott acknowledged that some staffers had tested positive for COVID-19, and said that the network would reduce staff in buildings and implement “enhanced testing procedures.” The executives said that the network will further pare down its in-person election night coverage, and that “only those employees who are critical to that night’s production will be permitted to work from [Fox’s Midtown Manhattan headquarters].”
The plane debacle isn’t the only reminder of the danger of the pandemic for the network’s employees in recent days. Last week, an internal memo was sent to Fox News staffers noting that web video producer Rob Brown, who had been with the network since 1999, had died. While the memo did not specify a cause of death, several sources, including a family member, confirmed to The Daily Beast that Brown—who had not been in the office since March—died from coronavirus complications.
“Rob was a wonderful employee and a bright light to those of us who were blessed to have worked alongside him,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
The news of last week’s debate-night flight exposure has alarmed Fox News staff, many of whom have felt relatively safe because of the network’s fairly robust testing protocols and skeleton in-person staffing at the Washington and New York City offices.
Still, some employees were…