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Fox News Channel considering disciplinary action against executive

Updated:

NEW YORK (AP) _ Fox News Channel is investigating whether an executive related to George W. Bush provided his cousin's campaign with insider exit poll data on Election Night.

Fox said, however, that John Ellis did not make the final decision when the network declared at 2:16 a.m. on Wednesday that Bush had won the presidency.

The network is considering some sort of disciplinary action against Ellis, who was working on a temporary contract, spokesman Rob Zimmerman said Tuesday.

Ellis, a first cousin to the Texas governor, was the director of Fox's decision team on election night. He was responsible for interpreting election data and helping Fox News Channel declare states for either Bush or Al Gore, Zimmerman said.

Fox was aware that Ellis was a Bush cousin before he was hired, Zimmerman said. Ellis had worked in the past for NBC News.

Fox has said that John Moody, its vice president of news and editorial quality, made the final call in declaring Bush the winner in Florida.

The New Yorker magazine reported that Ellis had frequent phone conversations with Bush and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, on election night, letting them know how the vote was going.

Zimmerman said Fox is looking into whether Ellis violated rules set by Voter News Service restricting when information from voter exit polls can be released. VNS is a consortium that conducts the surveys for five television networks and The Associated Press.

Fox News Channel was the first network to declare Bush the winner in the decisive Florida race on Wednesday morning. ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN all followed suit within four minutes.

By two hours later, each network had rescinded its declaration, and the Florida results are still in dispute.

Ellis denied that he broke VNS rules, he said in a statement to the New Yorker that he provided to The New York Times. He did not immediately return a telephone message Tuesday to The Associated Press.

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