NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., a stalwart supporter of President Donald Trump, on Friday referred to Joe Biden as the country's "president-elect," a comment her staff later said was a mistake.
Blackburn made the comments Friday evening live on ABC News, where she was being interviewed by Juju Chang.
The remark placed her among just a handful of Republican senators signaling acknowledgment of Biden's projected victory.
Chang asked Blackburn whether she had been in contact with Biden to congratulate him, as president-elect, on his victory.
"I have not spoken with the president-elect," Blackburn said. "We did have the vice president come to the floor, the vice president-elect come to the floor this week to cast a vote. I was presiding at the time. Didn't get to speak with her."
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is projected to become the nation's first female vice president.
Later Friday night, a spokesperson for Blackburn said the comment was a mistake and that Blackburn had "been very clear" on her position about the election outcome.
"She simply misspoke — it's nothing more," said Abigail Sigler, a campaign spokesperson for Blackburn. Blackburn's Senate staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sigler emailed to clarify after this story published.
The Tennessee senator's comments Friday stand in stark contrast to remarks she has made the past two weeks, suggesting that Trump was still likely to be reelected president despite Biden leading both the popular vote and in the Electoral College, based on results that have not yet been certified in every state.
Blackburn has helped raise funds for the Trump campaign's court challenges. Despite launching more than a couple dozen legal challenges to election outcomes in multiple states, Republicans have failed to gain traction in court to prove massive voter fraud or other irregularities that would change the outcome of the election.
"I will say now is the time for the Trump campaign, if they have their information that they need to present in court, now is the time that they need to be taking that evidence to court," Blackburn said in the interview.
When Chang pressed Blackburn on whether she believes it's time for Republicans to accept the outcome of the election and move forward with Biden as the presumptive winner, the senator appeared to attempt to walk back her earlier comments.
"There will be a time to do that," Blackburn said. "Right now it is important that we settle things. I think if every legal vote is counted, Donald Trump would get four more years."
Asked whether she agrees with her colleague, retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, that the federal government should provide the Biden team with transition resources, Blackburn deflected.
Alexander, the Republican senior senator from Tennessee who did not seek reelection, made the comments on Thursday to USA TODAY Network - Tennessee. He said that while it appeared Biden would likely be the next president and should be given access presidential transition resources, he was not yet prepared to refer to Biden as president-elect.
"There is going to be the opportunity for them as they begin to think toward if they're declared the winner, which of course right now it looks as if they're leading in these Electoral College votes, and from what I'm hearing they are moving forward," Blackburn said of Biden's team.
Only a few other senators from the majority party, including Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Susan Collins of Maine, have so far referred to Biden as president-elect.
Former Tennessee senators, though, have also done so. Republicans Bob Corker and Bill Frist each previously congratulated Biden on his projected victory.
Follow Nashville reporter Natalie Allison on Twitter at @natalie_allison.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn 'misspoke' calling Biden 'president-elect'