Biden’s First Year Review: How He Avoided News Conferences and Interviews?

President Joe Biden lingered after delivering a recent speech on the pandemic as reporters launched a volley of questions at him in what has become a typical occurrence.

Asked about the scarcity of COVID-19 fast tests, he bristled, answered another about omicron-related travel limitations, and dodged a third asking whether Sen. Joe Manchin broke his promise when he sunk Biden’s social services and climate-change funding package.

At the end of a lengthy statement that didn’t directly address the question regarding Manchin, Biden remarked, “I’m not supposed to be holding this press conference right now.”

Seconds later, Biden turned and walked out of the State Dining Room, putting an abrupt end to what had become his favored means of communicating with the press in his rare appearances.

Even as he nears the end of his first year in the White House, Biden has held fewer news conferences than any of his five immediate predecessors at the same stage in their respective presidential terms, and he has taken part in fewer media interviews than any of his more recent predecessors.

It is as a result of this dynamic that the White House is being questioned about whether President Biden, who campaigned on a platform of transparency and promised to lead the most transparent administration in American history, is falling short in his pledge to open up his administration and misses opportunities to explain his agenda.

According to a new study published by Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor emerita of political science at Towson University and head of the White House Transition Project, President Joe Biden fields questions during public appearances more frequently than any of his recent predecessors.

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As he comes and travels from the White House, he often pauses to speak with reporters who shout questions above the whirring propellers of Marine One, which is transporting him. He engages in friendly banter with media at photo ops in the Oval Office and other occasions. However, there are some restrictions to these exchanges.

“While President Biden has taken questions at his engagements more frequently than his predecessors, he does so for a shorter period of time,” Kumar points out. “When he accepts questions at the end of a previously prepared speech, he offers brief responses with little follow-ups.”

So far, Biden has given 22 media interviews, which is fewer than any of his six most recent White House predecessors have given at the same stage of their respective presidencies.

Only nine formal press conferences have been held by the 46th president, six of which have been held alone and three of which have been held in conjunction with visiting foreign leaders.

According to Kumar, Ronald Reagan, whose schedule was pared back early in his first term in 1981 following an assassination attempt, is the only president in modern history to hold fewer first-year press conferences. Reagan gave a total of 59 interviews in 1981.

Trump, who constantly criticized the media, conducted 92 interviews during his first year in office, more than two dozen of which were with Fox News hosts who were sympathetic to his cause.

However, Trump also met with reporters from ABC News, The Associated Press, the New York Times, Reuters, and other news organizations whose coverage he has criticized throughout his presidential tenure.

One-on-one interviews with journalists from three major television networks, three CNN town halls, an appearance on MSNBC, a trio of regional television interviews conducted via Zoom, as well as conversations with late-night host Jimmy Fallon and ESPN’s Sage Steele, are among the 22 media interviews that Biden has conducted so far. He’s only done three print interviews so far.

Media outlets have approached the White House with requests for Biden to do more one-on-one interviews and formal news conferences, and the White House has responded with objections from the White House Correspondents’ Association.

In response, Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, claims that holding a formal news conference with “embroidered cushions” on journalists’ seats is unnecessary because Biden takes questions on a weekly basis.

However, those discussions frequently do not allow for follow-up inquiries, and Biden has the ability to disregard questions that he does not wish to answer.

When it comes to compiling a historical record of the president’s views on a wide range of public matters, hurried exchanges are insufficient.

“We have had few opportunities to discover the president’s views on a wide range of public issues during his first year in office,” said Steven Portnoy, head of the White House Correspondents’ Association and a reporter for CBS News Radio.

“The more formal the engagement with the press, the more likely it is that the general public will learn about what the man is thinking.”

In addition, unlike her predecessors in the Trump administration, Psaki delivers daily news briefings.

While giving speeches or delivering an address, President Obama has addressed questions at 55 percent of the venues where he has spoken, outperforming even two of the most outspoken presidents, Bill Clinton (48 percent) and Donald Trump (48 percent) (41 percent).

Biden’s frequent encounters with reporters, according to White House aides, is evidence of his dedication to openness. Authorities also stated that the epidemic had an impact on the frequency of interviews and press conferences held by the administration during its first year in office…

According to Karine Jean-Pierre, White House deputy press secretary, “I believe that we have been extremely transparent.” “I don’t believe that you can approach it piecemeal; I believe that you must approach it holistically.”

Marine One was waiting on the South Lawn for Trump, and he had regular and sometimes extended conversations with reporters as he waited for Marine One.

Biden has carried on the practice of “chopper talk,” a term developed by late-night presenter Stephen Colbert to describe tense debates between political figures, but he prefers to keep the exchanges short.

Meanwhile, Biden has utilized the encounters to propel the news cycle in other instances.

When asked whether they discussed abortion at a private meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in October, Biden responded that issue did not come up during the meeting. But he suddenly shifted his position, claiming that Pope Francis told him he was “a good Catholic” and that he should continue to receive communion.

In total, the back and forth with reporters took less than a minute of his time.

According to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the administration’s communications strategy, the administration has placed a high value on finding ways to speak to Americans where they are in order to maximize the president’s limited time for messaging efforts. “We want to speak to them where they are,” the official said.

In order to accomplish this, Biden has been interviewed by YouTube star Manny Mua and has been on “The Tonight Show” to promote his domestic agenda and to encourage people to get vaccinated against various diseases.

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The White House feels that such venues can assist the president in reaching middle-class workers and young Americans who aren’t addicted to cable news or The New York Times.

Biden has also enlisted the support of celebrities with large social media followings, such as actress and singer Olivia Rodrigo and science expert Bill Nye the Science Guy, who have appeared in videos alongside Biden to promote his vaccine campaign and his huge domestic spending proposals.

President Joe Biden is far from the first president to look outside of the mainstream media in an attempt to connect with the American people.

Ex-President Barack Obama made a cameo appearance on Zach Galifianakis’s comedy series “Between Two Ferns” to promote his signature health care bill, and he visited comedian Marc Maron’s garage to film an episode of his famed WTF podcast shortly after the 2015 Charleston church shooting.

In a wide-ranging discussion with comedian Marc Maron, Obama spoke candidly about racism.

Trump made regular appearances on Fox News’ opinion broadcasts, allowing him to communicate directly with his supporters without the intervention of journalists.

Despite the fact that most polls show that much of Biden’s domestic agenda remains popular with a majority of Americans, Brian Ott, a Missouri State University communications professor who studies presidential rhetoric, believes that the lack of Biden news conferences and interviews with mainstream news media may help explain why Biden’s approval ratings are near historic lows.

While pop culture and social media provide opportunities to connect with a segment of the American public, Ott believes that the president connecting with the electorate through traditional broadcast and print news outlets — as well as holding formal news conferences — will be critical in bridging the gap.

In Ott’s opinion, “the president has always been primarily a verbal operation.” “It’s impossible to advance an agenda without first creating a vision, and a large part of that must be done through the mainstream media.”

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