Joe Biden has held the fewest presidential press conferences in a generation
President Joe Biden promised us the most transparent administration in American history. Instead, the man who campaigned largely from his basement is still Hidin’ Biden: He held fewer press conferences than any of his five immediate predecessors in his first year in office. His Wednesday presser marking Thursday’s anniversary of his inauguration was just his 10th – and only his second solo.
And Biden gave just 22 media interviews last year, fewer than any of his six most recent predecessors, Towson University’s White House Transition Project found.
Although he “answers questions more often at his events than his predecessors, he spends less time doing so,” notes Towson professor Martha Joynt Kumar. “He provides short answers with few follow-ups when answering questions at the end of a previously scheduled speech.”
As President of the White House Correspondents Association, Steven Portnoy complained in a tweet“The historic record of a presidency requires more than fleeting questions and answers.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists issued its own report last week, condemning “the president’s limited availability to journalists, the administration’s slow response to requests for information, his plan to extradite Julian Assange, media access restrictions at the US southern border and its limited access assistance to Afghan journalists.
Biden has spent a quarter of his time in Delaware, away from most Washington news outlets, but will not publish his Delaware visitor logs. When he finally answers questions, his staff often provides him with a hand-picked list of suitable reporters to call on.
In November, Sky News Australia showed footage of Biden’s detailed list of pre-approved reporters he could deign to speak with after the G20 summit in Rome.
Biden also faced backlash after saying he would only call reporters from a canned slate after his June summit in Geneva with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I’m going to answer your questions, and as usual, folks, they’ve given me a list of people I’m going to call,” Biden told reporters.
We don’t know who those vague “they” were, but chances are it includes White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who horrified reporters last year by asking them questions. . before his briefing.
PSAKI did not deny seeking to sanitize the pressers, with a White House spokesperson saying, “Our goal is to make the daily briefing as useful and informative as possible for reporters and the public.”
But as a Politico reporter Tara Palmeri explained on Twitter“To anyone asking why this matters: if Psaki doesn’t like your question, she won’t call you.”
This type of scripted and choreographed insider trading is exactly why populism has become a powerful force in American politics: voters don’t like those in power who hide in a bubble of jargon and impenetrable processes.
Culture is created from above. And that means the president himself is responsible for the lack of honesty and transparency. It’s getting so bad that even CNN, traditionally a Biden defender, has acknowledged it.
“I have never seen a president, covering the bottom four of them, who is so protected by his aides in terms of often not wanting him to answer certain questions,” Chief Business Correspondent Jeff Zeleny national networks, told his colleagues on the air in June.
Zeleny revealed that he didn’t see Biden answer questions “without his aides yelling at him to stop.”
Biden’s aides get agitated when they see him wander off script, and not just because of his embarrassing verbal faux pas. Even the liberal New York Times reported in June that “Biden walked back his stray remarks in an effort to salvage an infrastructure deal.” In November, Biden handlers rushed to reverse the boss’ acceptance of $450,000 taxpayer payments to illegal immigrants who had been separated from their families.
It’s no wonder a Politico poll released Wednesday found that 49% of voters disagreed with the statement that “Biden is mentally fit.”
Americans aren’t buying the skill facade that Biden hopes to project by remaining aloof and unapproachable. More than a third of Americans – 37% – rated his first year in office an F while just 11% gave him an A.
Biden’s clear preference reversed in August – the month of the botched Afghan pullout. American citizens are still trapped there, along with thousands of brave Afghan nationals who made themselves vulnerable to execution by the Taliban by aiding American troops. He and his spokespersons evaded or simply lied when asked about these poor souls.
Hidin’ Biden might be able to avoid facing the press, but his congressional facilitators can’t move to face voters in November.
Carrie Sheffield is a Senior Policy Analyst at Voice of Independent Women.