The TV News Stars Who Kept Us Sane During All the Days and Nights of 2020 Election Coverage

From Steve Kornacki and John King's marathon sessions at their magic walls to Savannah Guthrie and Gayle King's overnights at the office, here's who delivered us safely to the other side.

By Natalie Finn Nov 09, 2020 9:24 PMTags
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Well, that was something, wasn't it?!

The 2020 presidential race is over, Joe Biden having been declared the winner by all major media outlets on Saturday morning following three days and four nights of tireless vote-tallying all over the country—though the spotlight was cranked up exponentially on the handful of so-called swing states that, in the end, decided the hard-fought contest in the former vice-president's favor.

The real heroes, obviously, are the poll workers, vote counters, monitors and county officials who ensured the accuracy and sanctity of our democratic process, regular people from both sides of the political aisle who kept their heads down and it...

And are still at it in some places, because more ballots than ever before arrived in the mail this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. They get counted last in some states (while others, like Florida, start processing mail-in ballots ahead of Election Day) and the process takes time.

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But for those of us following the ebbs and flows, the pauses and pizza breaks, the continuity and controversy, at home, our collective sanity was largely attended to in real time—as it is in most instances of great national consequence—by the energetic folks whose job is to keep the story straight, no matter how long it takes to tell.

You know, the TV news people.

While it remains debatable as to whether marathon sessions of watching tired men in shirt sleeves gesturing in front of a touch screen as a map of the United States turns red and blue is a great thing for society, they were just delivering what the people wanted: a team of guides to shepherd us through this contentious week in American history and deposit us safely on the other side.

Stars Vote in the 2020 Presidential Election

So, a hearty thank you to those who kept us informed and relatively sane—and who didn't sleep so that we could:

Steve Kornacki

If you've been wondering where NBC News' election math guru has been all your life... well, he's been on MSNBC since 2013, first as co-host of the bipartisan panel show The Cycle and then as a host who bounced around to fill empty anchor chairs when need be until he largely gave that (and, by all accounts, sleep) up to switch his focus to reporting and writing. 

And in case you didn't notice as election night turned into election week, his specialty is...elections! His 2018 book The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism further explains why the electoral map is color-coded the way it is and looks the way it does, and for the past week he's been putting his expertise to the test, becoming an Internet folk hero in the process.

"Heading up to the studio and not leaving until we've got a result. Our live coverage starts at 6—hope you'll come along for the ride!" Kornacki merrily tweeted on Nov. 3. Two days later, at 11:48 p.m. ET, he wrote, "Forget grabbing sleep, there's still votes coming in in PA. I'm heading back to the studio. In the old days, there was USA Up All Night. Tonight, it'll be MSNBC Up All Night. Come on along for the ride."

Every time we looked up, there he was. True story.

On Friday, MSNBC colleague Willie Geist tweeted an anecdote: "Me: 'Let's get Steve a chair.' @SteveKornacki: 'If I sit down, I'll fall asleep.' Kornacki remains at his post, awaiting results from Pennsylvania."

Katy Tur

The indefatigable NBC News reporter and MSNBC Live anchor who was embedded with the Trump campaign in 2016 (and wrote the book Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History to show for it) co-anchored MSNBC's late-night coverage and yet, oh, there she was during the day as well, keeping the information flowing.

"Never been more exciting to pull three all nighters in a row. All hail Steve Kornacki," she complimented her similarly tireless colleague on Friday.

Lester Holt and Savannah Guthrie

The NBC News veterans anchored (in all senses of the word) the Peacock Network's Election Night coverage—"Decision 2020"—and it lasted late into the night, they were still there at 2 a.m. ET to mute the incumbent president's speech when he announced he had won Michigan and Georgia, states that had not yet been called for either candidate at the time.

"We've got to dip in here because there've been several statements that are just frankly not true," Guthrie explained.

Just a few hours later, your eyes did not deceive you! There was Guthrie again, in her chair, co-hosting Today with Hoda Kotbe as always.

"Up late, up early. Got my 45 min power nap - see you on @todayshow at 6am!" she informed us via Instagram, her unmistakably 2020 pics showing a crew member wearing a plastic face shield on the set. Subsequently, she followed up later that evening, flashing a pic of her iced latte, "Tonight's broadcast brought to you by... caffeine."

Bret Baier & Martha MacCallum

The Fox News duo were tasked with navigating the election ship through the choppy waters of Nov. 3 and beyond—and were the most-watched team on election night, averaging 13.8 million viewers in Eastern prime time, the heftiest share of the roughly 56.9 million people who watched coverage on TV this year.

Since 71.9 million people watched election night coverage in 2016, the guess is that quite a few have since jumped ship to streaming and otherwise watching content online.

"Might be tired. Might be on coffee #7 (or 8) of the day," Baier wrote on Instagram on Nov. 4. "Still committed to bringing you the election results. Thank you for making us #1 last night in the ratings. We appreciate your viewership." Three days later, he and MacCallum called it for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, the only evidence they'd budged from their chairs that whole time being her different ensemble. (Baier was wearing the same, or an identical, tie to the one he wore Tuesday, but he did switch out other ties during the week.)

Arnon Mishkin

When Mishkin, the director of the Fox News Decision Desk since 2012, called Arizona for Joe Biden on the evening of Nov. 3, it was all anyone could talk about—and though Biden's lead in the state narrowed as the counting continued, prompting most outlets to not shade the state solid blue for days (and it remains striped, i.e. hanging in the balance, on some maps), it will be remembered as the boldest call of the week.

Despite plenty of pushback, Mishkin explained to Baier and MacCallum on Wednesday that he—and therefore the network—was standing by his decision.

"We are not pulling back that call," he said, noting that there weren't enough yet-to-be-counted ballots left in Arizona to alter the outcome. "We do not believe that this will change the tenor or the texture of the race, and we strongly believe that our call will stand. And that's why we're not pulling back the call."

MacCallum asked if the vote could change, if the president's team was correct in its assertion that they believed the majority of the remaining ballots would go to them, and Mishkin replied, "If a frog had wings. What we believe fairly strongly is that the vote is going to come in, it's going to confirm our call. Others will then call Arizona for the former vice president. We're confident in our call, and we'll see when the data comes in." 

Anderson Cooper

The CNN stalwart was on for hours every day and night reporting on the election, and in other amphibious imagery, his reaction to the president's false claims of voter fraud in Pennsylvania, the state that eventually put Biden over the top on Saturday with its 20 electoral votes, made its own round of headlines.

Discussing Biden's win, Cooper told former presidential candidate Andrew Yang during an on-air chat that he regretted using certain words to describe President Trump's behavior. "That's not the person I really want to be and...yeah, it was in the heat of the moment and I regret it," he assured Yang, who enjoyed a good chuckle nonetheless.

David Muir, George Stephanopoulos & Linsey Davis

ABC News' prime time and daytime powerhouses joined forces to keep viewers informed starting on Election Night, and they were there to call it on Nov. 7.

Joy Reid

The ReidOut host co-anchored MSNBC's prime-time coverage and, though she toiled throughout the week, she left enough in the tank for the moment she, along with so many other women, had been waiting for. For years, really.

"God help me I did my own makeup last night... but threw on the suffragette white for the occasion," she shared on Nov. 7. "Hillary Clinton set the table in 2016 for the ambitions of women in this country and Kamala was able to finish the meal. But this moment was built by Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Shirley Chisholm and so many more Black women who came before Kamala. And now? Kamala is here. Hallelujah."

Nicolle Wallace

The Deadline: White House host did take a break to tape a quick interview for Conan from home on Thursday afternoon, but otherwise she was nowhere but co-anchoring MSNBC's evening coverage starting on Election Night—and then tweeted a thank you to seemingly each and every one of the people who appeared with her (via Zoom, et al.) to add their expertise and insight to these proceedings.

Wallace, in turn, was given life by Leslie Jones' live-tweeting of the MSNBC coverage, announcing Friday, "I'm changing my name to Damn Nicky! You are the best thing in the universe @Lesdoggg."

Rachel Maddow

The longtime MSNBC host anchored last week till she literally could anchor no more, a "close contact" positive COVID-19 test requiring her to leave the studio and head home to self-isolate on Friday. (Because 2020 isn't over yet.)

But you bet your Massachusetts farmhouse that Maddow was on the air, from home, on Saturday morning when the election was called.

Gayle King

The soup diet to squeeze into her favorite yellow dress to kick off CBS News' election night coverage at 7 p.m. ET with Norah O'Donnell, John Dickerson and more proved worth it—because she was still wearing it on Wednesday in her usual spot on CBS This Morning.

"THEEE yellow dress aka Elex nite dress! Made it on the set after 5 day fast- marathon hours means no time to go home to change so said dress became pajamas as I slept 45 min on couch in green room .. tv news so glamorous!" King shared on Instagram. "Have you ever worn same thing to work two days in a row?"

Andy Cohen chimed in with a compliment: "Yellow is your color!"

King admitted to Variety after that 6 a.m. ET call time, "I am cock-eyed tired." Since there was no time to go home after being informed they wanted her back on Wednesday morning, she continued, "I slept in my clothes and my Spanx. I thought I would have enough time to go hop in the tub. When my assistant said 'We're going at 6' I said 'What?'"

Jake Tapper

When something major is happening, the host of Monday-through-Friday's The Lead With Jake Tapper and Sunday's State of the Union on CNN will be there—so why not add Saturday to the mix?! After posing for pics with his coffee on more than one occasion, Tapper was there to take the baton from Wolf Blitzer, who is contractually obligated to stand up when news breaks, and exhaustedly call it a day for the Trump administration.

John King

CNN has its own King of the electoral map, and audiences were loving him as the counting started on Nov. 3 and never let up. And, if you like your magic-wall marathon men in suits, his jacket never came off.

"Dat boy John King been on his feet since 7p," The Daily Show's Roy Wood Jr. tweeted that first night. "No chair, no Gatorade, no arch support. CNN cold blooded. Get that man a stool or one of them rolling office chairs."

And while he hasn't posted to Instagram since the last presidential election, King gave us a glimpse of his secret weapon at the time on Nov. 8, 2016. Sharing a photo of a line-up of coffee dispensers at work, he wrote, "This will get me through the 6p and 7p states. #magicwall #cnnelection."

The CNN Night Squad

"The late shift comes with perks. @secupp made @johnavlon, @andrewyang & me snack packs with our names on them and everything. Thanks S.E.!" Don Lemon shared on Friday.

S.E. Cupp wrote Saturday, sharing a pic of the CNN electoral map wall, "It's been a real privilege to have a front seat to history this week."

(E!, NBC and MSNBC are all members of the NBCUniversal family.)

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