From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 28.
For newspapers, it was the “Dewey Defeats Truman” declaration by the Chicago Daily Tribune in 1948. For the broadcast media, the wrong prognostication came in the too-close-to-call Bush-Gore election of 2000. Members of Congress wanted to hold the television networks accountable for their errors, and in the end, the anchors admitted they blew it. Below are examples of the reversals two anchors made as the election returns from Florida were tabulated throughout the night.
Nov. 7, 2000, 8:10 p.m. EST: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC, along with The Associated Press announced Vice President Al Gore beat Texas Gov. George W. Bush in Florida and proclaimed him the next president of the United States.
“We’d rather be right than wrong,” CBS anchor Dan Rather said. “If we declare a state, you can take it to the bank.”
10 p.m. EST: All the networks admitted they jumped the gun on the earlier call for Gore and took it back.
“What the networks giveth, the networks taketh away,” NBC anchor Tom Brokaw said. “That would be something if the networks manage to blow it twice in one night.”
Nov. 8, 2:30 a.m. EST: All the networks, but not The Associated Press, called Bush the winner of Florida and the next president.
“Let’s give a tip of the Stetson to the loser, Vice President Al Gore, and at the same time, a big hip, hip, hurrah and a great big Texas howdy to the new president of the United States. Sip it. Savor it. Cup it. Photostat it. Underline it in red. Press it in a book. Put it in an album. Hang it on a wall. George Bush is the next president of the United States,” Rather said.
Nov. 8, 4:30 a.m. EST: For the second time that evening, the networks had to retract their call, saying the race in Florida was in fact too close to call.
“We don’t just have egg on our face, we’ve got omelet all over our suits” Brokaw said.