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Biden gives fewest interviews of any president in 40 years, raising questions among friendly media

The Basement Campaign? During his first three years as president, President Biden has given 89 interviews, compared to former President Donald Trump’s 300, and former President Obama’s 422.

Published: May 6, 2024 11:11pm

The media is growing weary of President Biden’s avoidance of interviews with journalists, as he has given the fewest of any president in over 40 years.

Mainstream media is noticing that Biden is sitting down for fewer interviews than they are accustomed to presidents giving, which some have speculated is the result of old age and failing memory.

In the wake of a Politico story about tension between The New York Times and the Biden administration, the newspaper released a statement criticizing Biden for avoiding media interviews.

Biden has effectively avoided questions

In a statement published last month, The Times wrote,“For anyone who understands the role of the free press in a democracy, it should be troubling that President Biden has so actively and effectively avoided questions from independent journalists during his term.” The paper added that “Biden has granted far fewer press conferences and sit-down interviews with independent journalists than virtually all of his predecessors.”

According to The Times, their concern is “That systematically avoiding interviews and questions from major news organizations doesn’t just undermine an important norm, it also establishes a dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to avoid scrutiny and accountability. That is why [publisher A.G.] Sulzberger has repeatedly urged the White House to have the president sit down with The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CNN and other major independent news organizations that millions of Americans rely on to understand their government.”

The Times endorsed Biden's presidency in 2020, and has not endorsed a Republican presidential candidate since 1956, when it endorsed Dwight Eisenhower.

The newspaper released the statement following Democratic blowback from a Politico report that claimed The Times and the White House have a strained relationship. Several reporters from The Times have denied claims made in the Politico article regarding reporting on Biden's age.

Prior to the Politico story, former President Donald Trump took a jab at Biden for being unable to sit down for interviews. In a Time Magazine interview Trump did last month, he asked the interviewer, “Do you think you could do this interview with Biden?”

“You know, he didn’t say yes. So I’m grateful that you’re giving me the opportunity,” said Time reporter Eric Cortellessa. “He will never say yes, ‘cause he’s off. He’s off, way off,” Trump said.

"What about the gaffes?"

In addition to Trump’s criticism of Biden’s ability, CNN — normally effusive over Biden — also asked about his ability following one of Biden's more widely reported and noticeable gaffes. During a meeting with wind energy executives in June 2022, Biden accidentally displayed an official White House card with specific instructions telling him, "YOU take YOUR seat."

The "Sequence of Events" sheet also read: "YOU enter the Roosevelt Room and say hello to participants." According to the card, Biden was also to ask AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler a question. 

Biden's mental state came into question yet again just last month, when speaking at a trade union event and  reading from a teleprompter. After listing his achievements in office, Mr Biden told the audience: “Imagine what we could do next. Four more years.” He then added: “Pause.”

Prior to the White House meeting, then-CNN host Don Lemon asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about the commander-in-chief's cognitive abilities earlier this month. "Don, you're asking me this question, oh my gosh," Jean-Pierre said.

"He's the president of the United States. ... This is not a question that we should be even asking," she responded.

By the numbers

During his first year as president, Biden sat for 28 interviews, compared to Trump’s 95 and Barack Obama’s 162 over the same period of time in their respective presidencies, according to the White House Transition Project.

This year, Biden skipped the traditional presidential pre-Super Bowl interview after declining to participate in it last year.

During his first three years as president, Biden has given 89 interviews, compared to Trump’s 300, Obama’s 422, George W. Bush’s 135, Bill Clinton’s and George H.W. Bush’s 168 each, and Ronald Reagan’s 189 by the same point in their presidencies, according to the White House Transition Project’s Martha Joynt Kumar.

By late May 2022, Biden had gone 100 consecutive days without a sit-down media interview.

CNN reported that skipping the interview was part of “a larger Biden strategy: The president is leaning far less than his predecessors on the traditional media apparatus to get his message out, opting instead for alternative mediums to address the American people.”

Biden’s communications team has focused more on working with social media influences to get the president’s message out to the public, according to CNN.

Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki implied on “The View” Monday that the type of interviews Biden takes are more important than the quantity.

“The benefit of the media environment right now — there’s a lot of challenges, but I’m going to start with the optimistic side — is that there are so many choices,” Psaki said.

“When you’re communicating from the White House, I mean respect for freedom of speech and freedom of the press is important, but you’re also just really trying to communicate with the American people, right? So my view is he should come on ‘The View’ before he does a press conference,” she added.

Psaki also referenced Biden’s interview with former shock jock Howard Stern last month, saying, “I think press conferences are important, but I also think him doing Howard Stern, that’s an interview that reached a broader audience of people.”

The former press secretary noted Biden’s appearance on the “Smartless” podcast, hosted by actors Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Sean Hayes. However, the interview was only released last week, after being recorded on March 28.

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