Fox News reportedly told on-air talent not to refer to Joe Biden as the president-elect even if the network calls the 2020 race for him

  • Fox News instructed all on-air talent not to refer to Joe Biden as the president-elect even if the network projects him to win the 2020 election, CNN's Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter reported.
  • Fox News told talent to "stay away" from calling Biden the president-elect and said hosts and anchors should instead emphasize the flurry of legal challenges that President Donald Trump's campaign has filed in several battleground states to contest the election results, the report said.
  • Earlier Friday, Insider and Decision Desk HQ projected Biden to win the election after he picked up Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes.
  • Trump's campaign has filed more than half a dozen lawsuits in battleground states including Pennsylvania and spread lies that the election was rigged against him and that there was widespread voter fraud.
  • Several primetime stars on Fox News followed the president's lead, saying that the "outcome of our presidential election was seized from the hands of voters" and that there should be a "do-over" in Pennsylvania.
  • As Business Insider has reported, there is no evidence of widespread voter or election fraud, and this election was among the safest and most secure because of the use of paper ballots and voting machines with verifiable paper trails.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Fox News told on-air talent not to refer to Joe Biden as the president-elect even if the network projects him to win the 2020 election, CNN reported on Friday.

CNN said that in two memos it obtained, Fox News told talent to "stay away" from calling Biden the president-elect and instead say Biden has "enough electoral votes to win the presidency."

The memos also said hosts and anchors should emphasize the flurry of legal challenges that President Donald Trump's campaign has filed in several battleground states to contest the election results.

"We will report both sides until there is further guidance," one memo said, according to CNN. The report also said it's possible that Fox could change its guidance before or after the race is called.

The CNN report said one email to staffers said "we will not be calling Biden the president-elect. Or using any of the whizbang graphics that say so." Another email said, "Should former Vice President Biden get to that magic 270 number and Fox News calls the race for him – we should be completely transparent. We should stay away from calling him the President-Elect for the time being."

Biden "does not become 'President-Elect' until the votes are certified," the email said. Fox News did not use this guidance in 2016, when it began referring to Trump as the president-elect the day after the 2016 election.

A Fox representative told Insider there was no network guidance or memo. And network anchor Bret Baier said Friday that a Biden win in the battleground state of Pennsylvania would mean "he would become the president-elect of the United States."

Earlier Friday, Insider and Decision Desk HQ projected Biden to win the election after he picked up Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes, pushing him over the 270 votes needed to clinch the presidency.

Many votes still need to be counted in Pennsylvania. But the ballots being counted now are mail-in ballots, which have consistently favored Biden. Over the past several days, Trump's initial lead in Pennsylvania, based on votes cast on Election Day, steadily diminished, and a slight Trump lead had turned into a slight Biden lead on Friday morning.

Decision Desk HQ said that given the Biden lean of the mail-in ballots so far and the margins that Trump would have to hit to reverse the trend, it was able to call Pennsylvania for Biden.

The president-elect also won Michigan and Wisconsin earlier this week, and on Friday he held a narrow lead over Trump in Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona, whose ballots are still being counted.

The Trump campaign has filed more than half a dozen lawsuits and legal challenges in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan, some of which have already been dismissed or denied by judges.

And as his early lead over Biden in critical states dwindled and it became increasingly likely that Biden would win the presidency, Trump went on offense, falsely declaring himself the winner of the race, spreading conspiracy theories about election-rigging and voter fraud, claiming he was cheated out of the election, saying he had an early lead in some states before it "miraculously" got "whittled away in secret," complaining about polls, and saying he won states that he actually lost or that had not been called yet.

His campaign was also infuriated when Fox News' decision desk called Arizona for Biden a little after 11 p.m. on Tuesday, when roughly 73% of the state's ballots had been counted.

Trump and his aides "erupted at the news," The New York Times reported. "If it was true that Arizona was lost, it would call into doubt on any claim of victory the president might be able to make."

There is no evidence of widespread voter or election fraud, and experts have said this year's election was among the safest and most secure because of the use of paper ballots and voting machines with verifiable paper trails.

And as Business Insider has reported, it was widely expected that Trump would have an early lead in states that started counting and tabulating votes on Election Day because ballots cast on Tuesday would likely favor him, while mail-in ballots — which would be processed as the night went on — would favor Biden. For that reason, election experts anticipated a "blue shift" in some states and a "red shift" in others that allowed officials to start processing mail ballots before Election Day.

Still, several Fox News primetime hosts followed the president's lead. Sean Hannity floated the notion of a "do-over" in Pennsylvania as Biden was on the precipice of taking the lead over Trump in the state late Thursday.

"Tonight every American should be angry, outraged and worried and concerned about what happened in the election and the lead-up to the election," Hannity said on Wednesday night. "Do you trust what happened in this election? Do you believe these election results are accurate?"

Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham fell in line, with Carlson saying that the "outcome of our presidential election was seized from the hands of voters" by "clearly corrupted city bureaucrats."

Ingraham insisted that there were "many questions" about the electoral process, falsely claimed that there were "unverifiable dumps of votes," and asked, "Is the fix already in?"

Jake Lahut contributed reporting.

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