News organizations were preparing for a potentially decisive call for the 2020 presidential race on Friday, even as President Trump and his allies continue to lie about the integrity of the elections and make baseless claims about election fraud.
Cable news networks had their A-list anchors ready in anticipation of a historic call, but the urgency of the morning sparked a faster mood as the selector switches in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania resumed their work.
The anchors took numerous clues on President Trump’s closer path to victory when the on-screen graphics showed Joseph R. Biden Jr. was nearing the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the White House, but the network decision-making tables were in charge. With no crucial call and hours to fill, the solution was vamp.
“We haven’t gotten to the point where he’s hit the actual 270, but those trend lines have been confirmed so it seems like he’s going in that direction,” said John Dickerson on CBS.
The networks reported that Mr Biden planned to speak to the nation on prime time Friday, while continuing to discover false claims of voting irregularities by Mr Trump and some of his aides and supporters. Some of the president’s usual allies were not convinced by the fraud allegations.
“There’s no evidence yet,” said Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and campaign advisor to Mr. Trump, on ABC. “If there is evidence, we have to see it. If not, we have to stop accusing the system.”
Fox News and The Associated Press, the only two major news organizations to predict Mr Biden as Arizona winner, had Mr Biden with 264 votes on Friday. Other media outlets – including a network consortium made up of ABC, CBS, CNN, and NBC – have refused to call the Arizona race. The number of votes they gave Biden is 253.
However, preparations were underway in the media.
Just before noon, Washington reporters from the Wall Street Journal received a memo received from the New York Times telling them that the newspaper’s standards department had stopped using the term “President-Elect” to describe Joseph R. Biden Jr. when the AP called the overall race in its favor.
The Times will refer to the winner as an “elected president” on first reference after the newspaper named a winner of the entire election, according to a spokeswoman.
On Fox News, host Bret Baier told viewers that if the network’s decision-making body predicted a Biden win in Nevada or Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden would “become the President-elect of the United States”.
Mr. Baier’s use of the term “President-Elect” has been spotted across the media industry based on a previous CNN report quoting internal Fox News messages instructing on-air talent not to refer to Mr. Biden as elected president. According to CNN, Fox News anchors were asked instead to say that Mr Biden “had enough votes to win the presidency”.
Fox News said Friday that newsroom management had not issued a policy on the use of the “President-Elect”. Two people with direct knowledge of the network’s internal communications said that Fox News’ key political anchors had received no guidance on how to relate to Mr Biden in the event the network’s decision-making switch projects a Democratic victory in the president’s race.
Fox News’ coverage of the elections was scrutinized. Liberals are suspicious of the network’s owners, Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan. At the same time, President Trump and his allies are upset that the network made an early phone call to Mr Biden in Arizona on election night, and they have publicly scourged Fox News for the past few days.
Several Trump allies appeared on Fox News Friday making unsubstantiated claims about election irregularities. Newt Gingrich, for example, highlighted the prospect of a “dead people” vote in Michigan with no evidence to support the claim.
Mr. Baier, who co-hosted Fox News coverage with Martha MacCallum, has pushed several false claims back. When Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, suggested that there were problems with election observers in Michigan, Mr. Baier replied, “Being transparent about watching ballots is different from looking for fraud that narrows the gap.”
Mr Baier went into more general electoral fraud claims, adding, “All sorts of things fly on the Internet. But if you look at it, it doesn’t work.”