Though the mainstream media are almost always reluctant to criticize Democrats, one area where they sometimes make an exception is when those same Democrats consistently demonstrate a reluctance to engage with the press corps on a regular basis, especially in formal settings like scheduled pressers and sit-down interviews where direct and follow-up questions can be asked.
This is quite different from “press sprays” and the like where reporters attend a presidential function but get relegated to informally shouting questions at the president as he walks out of the room escorted by frantic handlers and sometimes pretends not to hear them.
Oftentimes last year, White House press secretary Jen Psaki would point to Biden taking questions at off the cuff moments like those press sprays, or when he’s walking to Marine One, etc., as supposed evidence that he was as committed to transparency as he promised he would be prior to the 2020 election.
Though some in the media are apparently okay with the table scraps Biden occasionally throws at them in those situations, others are not. The Associated Press demonstrated the latter with a report they filed this morning which shined an uncomfortable spotlight on Biden’s press access issues a year into his presidency using information recently gathered by Towson University’s White House Transition Project:
As Biden wraps up his first year in the White House, he has held fewer news conferences than any of his five immediate predecessors at the same point in their presidencies, and has participated in fewer media interviews than any of his recent predecessors.
Biden has done just 22 media interviews, fewer than any of his six most recent White House predecessors at the same point in their presidencies.
The 46th president has held just nine formal news conferences — six solo and three jointly with visiting foreign leaders. […]
Former President Donald Trump, who regularly pilloried the media, did 92 interviews in his first year in office, more than two dozen of those with friendly interlocutors at Fox News. But Trump also held lengthy sessions with ABC News, The Associated Press, the New York Times, Reuters and other outlets whose coverage he impugned throughout his presidency.
Biden’s 22 media interviews have included one-on-one sessions with journalists at three of the major television networks, three CNN town halls, an appearance on MSNBC, a trio of regional television interviews via Zoom, as well as conversations with late night host Jimmy Fallon and ESPN’S Sage Steele. He’s given just three print interviews.
Here’s what that looks like in graphic form:
#JoeBiden Is Not Able To Read A Teleprompter Or Hold A Press Conference Where Questions Are Allowed. #Biden only appears on late-night comedy programs with comedians who serve up prearranged fat meatball pitches. pic.twitter.com/93ysFMoAAE
— Planet Ponzi (@PlanetPonzi) January 9, 2022
The Daily Mail published a similar piece which cited the AP’s information, and included this graphic:
Biden conducted fewer press conference than any of his five predecessors in Year One, according to new analysis https://t.co/Doq3HqHwyc
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) January 9, 2022
Because they want to give him the benefit of the doubt, I’ve seen some in the press laughably claim this is a “disciplined” strategy on the part of Biden, supposedly designed to give him more time to focus on the issues facing the American people and balancing them with the occasional back and forth with the media.
The real issue is that Biden is just not a very effective messenger for a number of reasons, most disturbingly because half the time he appears to lose track of what he’s saying and/or where he is, which oftentimes leads to wildly awkward/inappropriate moments as the cameras roll. As a result, Biden’s team including Psaki have fine-tuned the media avoidance tactic/hideout plan they used for most of 2020, ostensibly on grounds that it was safer for all involved during the coronavirus pandemic.
As I’ve said before, as much as we rail on the mainstream media for their bias, it’s not because we hate the media – it’s because we want them to actually do what they’re supposed to do and hold government officials accountable and to report stories from a neutral perspective that allows the reader/viewer to form their own opinions. It’s difficult for the media to do their jobs when political figures play access games and let their handlers do a lion’s share of the dirty work in attempting to clean up their boss’s messes.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Biden White House has no intention of changing their tune on press access in 2022:
Joe Biden hasn’t held a press conference since November 2 — 68 days ago.
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) January 10, 2022
Jen Psaki’s spin on the AP’s report later today during the White House press briefing should be fascinating. Stay tuned.