Biden avoided press conferences and interviews in year 1

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WASHINGTON (AP) – In what has become a familiar scene, President Joe Biden lingered after delivering a recent speech on the pandemic as reporters launched a barrage of questions.

He bristled at a question about the shortage of COVID-19 rapid tests, answered another about omicron-induced travel restrictions, and dodged a third over whether Sen. Joe Manchin did not keep word when he torpedoed social services and Biden’s climate spending plan.

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“I’m not supposed to have this press conference right now,” Biden said at the end of a curvy response that didn’t directly address the question about Manchin.

Seconds later, Biden turned and walked out of the State Dining Room, abruptly ending what has become his preferred method for his limited press engagements.

As Biden wraps up his freshman year in the White House, he has held fewer press conferences than any of his five immediate predecessors at the same time in their presidency and has participated in fewer media interviews than he did. no matter which of its recent predecessors.

The dynamic leads the White House to question whether Biden, who has vowed to have the most transparent administration in the country’s history, fails to raise the curtain on how his administration operates and miss opportunities to ‘explain his program.

Biden answers questions more frequently in public appearances than any of his recent predecessors, according to new research published by Martha Joynt Kumar, professor emeritus of political science at Towson University and director of the White House Transition Project.

He regularly stops to speak to reporters who shout questions about Marine One’s roaring propellers as he comes and goes from the White House. He parades with reporters at Oval Office photo ops and other events. But these exchanges have their limits.

“Although President Biden has answered questions more often at his events than his predecessors, he devotes less time to them,” notes Kumar. “He provides short answers with little follow-up when answering questions at the end of a pre-scheduled speech.”

Biden gave just 22 media interviews, fewer than any of his six most recent White House predecessors at the same time in their presidency.

The 46th president has only held nine official press conferences – six solo and three in conjunction with visiting foreign leaders. Ronald Reagan, whose schedule was cut at the start of his first term in 1981 after an assassination attempt, is the only recent president to hold fewer first-year press conferences, according to Kumar. Reagan did 59 interviews in 1981.

Former President Donald Trump, who has regularly pilloried the media, gave 92 interviews in his first year in office, more than two dozen with friendly Fox News interlocutors. But Trump also held lengthy sessions with ABC News, The Associated Press, The New York Times, Reuters and other outlets whose coverage he disputed throughout his presidency.

Biden’s 22 media interviews included one-on-one sessions with reporters from three of the major television networks, three town halls from CNN, an appearance on MSNBC, a trio of regional television interviews via Zoom, as well as conversations with a host. late evening. ESPN’s Jimmy Fallon and Sage Steele. He gave only three print interviews.

The White House has responded to media requests – and complaints from the White House Correspondents Association – for Biden to do more one-on-one interviews and formal press conferences.

Press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back, arguing that a formal press conference with “embroidered cushions” on journalists’ seats is unnecessary since Biden answers questions several times a week.

But these exchanges often don’t allow for follow-up questions, and Biden can ignore questions he might not want to answer.

“Fleeting exchanges are not enough to establish the history of the President’s views on a wide range of public concerns. We have had few opportunities in this first year to learn the president’s perspective on a wide range of public concerns, ”said Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Correspondents Association and journalist. for CBS News Radio. “The more formal the exchange with the press, the more likely the public is to know more about what man is thinking. “

Psaki also holds daily press briefings, unlike his predecessors in the Trump administration.

The president answered questions in 55% of the events where he gave a speech or speech, more than even two of the most talkative presidents, Bill Clinton (48%) and Trump (41%).

White House officials have pointed out that these frequent interactions with reporters prove Biden’s commitment to transparency. Officials also suggested that the pandemic also affected the number of interviews and press conferences in the administration’s first year.

“I think we have been very transparent,” said Deputy White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “I don’t think you can just go piecemeal and I think you have to look at it as a whole. “

Trump had regular and sometimes lengthy exchanges with reporters as a Marine One waited for him on the South Lawn.

Biden continued the tradition of “chopper talk,” a nickname coined by late-night host Stephen Colbert for tense exchanges, though he tends to keep the exchanges brief.

At other times, Biden has used the exchanges to drive the news cycle.

Asked after a private visit with Pope Francis to the Vatican in October if they were discussing abortion, Biden replied that it had not been raised. But then he quickly turned to the assertion that Francis had told him that he was “a good Catholic and that I should continue to receive Communion.” The whole trip back and forth with the reporters lasted about a minute.

The administration has focused on finding ways to talk to Americans where they are, as it tries to maximize the president’s limited time for messaging efforts, according to a White House official who spoke under on condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s communication strategy.

To this end, Biden was interviewed by YouTube personality Manny Mua and appeared on “The Tonight Show” to advance his household agenda and encourage people to get vaccinated. The White House believes such platforms can help the president more easily reach middle-class workers or young Americans who aren’t glued to cable networks or the New York Times.

Biden also relied on well-followed celebrities on social media – including actress and songwriter Olivia Rodrigo and Bill Nye The Science Guy – who made videos with Biden to help him bolster his vaccination campaign and connect its main national spending initiatives.

Biden is hardly the first president to look beyond mainstream media to try and connect with the public.

Former President Barack Obama appeared on Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” to help sell his healthcare law and visited comedian Marc Maron’s garage to record an episode of the popular WTF podcast days after the shooting from the Charleston Church in 2015. Obama spoke bluntly about racism in the high-profile interview with Maron.

Trump has frequently tapped into Fox News opinion broadcasts, reaching his base directly without the filter of reporters.

Brian Ott, a communications professor at Missouri State University who studies presidential rhetoric, said Biden’s scarcity of press conferences and interviews with mainstream media may help explain why the approval ratings de Biden are near all-time lows, although most polls show much of his national agenda remains popular with a majority of Americans.

As pop culture and social media provide opportunities to connect with a segment of America, said Ott, the president connecting to the electorate through traditional broadcast and print media – and hosting formal press conferences. – will be essential to correct this disconnection.

“The presidency has always been a primarily rhetorical endeavor,” said Ott. “You can’t run a program without a vision cast and part of that has to go through the mainstream press. “


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