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Fox News tells anchors not to call Biden ‘President-elect,’ then seems to change its tune

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: Advertisements featuring Fox News personalities, including Tucker Carlson, adorn the front of the News Corporation building, March 13, 2019 in New York City. On Wednesday the network's sales executives are hosting an event for advertisers to promote Fox News. Fox News personalities Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro have come under criticism in recent weeks for controversial comments and multiple advertisers have pulled away from their shows. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Fox News, the cable network that has been one of President Trump’s most important supporters, told anchors and other staffers not to call Joe Biden the “President-elect” when the network calls the race, according to two memos obtained by CNN Business.

The memos said that Fox should “stay away” from using the description, and instead say something like Biden has “enough electoral votes to win the presidency.”

The memos justified the unusual positioning by citing the moves by Trump’s legal teams to challenge the results. Numerous legal analysts, however, have dismissed the lawsuits and potential legal maneuverings as having little to no merit.

“We will report both sides until there is further guidance,” one of the memos said.

After CNN Business reported on the internal guidance, and noted that it was possible that Fox could change the guidance either before or after it calls the race, Fox denied that it was guidance at all, and anchors on Fox referred to Biden as “President-elect” in hypothetical conversations.

One of the email messages told staffers that “we will not be calling Biden the president elect. Or using any of the whizbang graphics that say so.”

A different 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 ‘President-elect’ for the time being.”

A source at Fox described the guidance as well.

The second of the two email messages correctly said that Biden “does not become ‘President-elect’ until the votes are certified.”

However, it is common for news organizations to use such language after an election has been called.

Fox referred to Trump as the “President-elect” the day after the 2016 election.

Fox’s news coverage of the election has been strikingly deferential to the president, who is known to watch the network for multiple hours a day.

News and talk show segments have played up Trump’s lawsuits in various battleground states, while CNN and other networks have reported on the suits as long-shots at best.

Numerous Fox shows have also aired unverified claims about mass voter fraud from the president’s allies.

At the same time, Trump campaign officials have blasted Fox for projecting on Tuesday night that Biden will win Arizona’s electoral votes.

Top advisers phoned Fox talent to complain and Jared Kushner went so far as to get in touch with Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire owner of the channel.

Fox’s decision desk, however, has repeatedly said it stands by its call of Arizona. But that hasn’t stopped some of Fox’s biggest stars from questioning it.

Prime time host and Trump booster Sean Hannity said on his Fox show Thursday night that “any call of Arizona was premature.” A network spokesperson did not respond when asked whether the network had any comment on Hannity’s assertion.