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President Biden has been a hard man to find, at least when it comes to solo television interviews.
Biden hasn’t done a formal, sit-down television interview since he spoke with NBC’s Lester Holt on Feb. 10 — 78 days ago. In his first year in office, Biden did just 22 formal sit-downs, compared to Donald Trump’s 92 and Barack Obama’s 156, according to data from Towson University’s White House Transition Project.
Fox News found that through this point, Trump had given 32 interviews on a visual medium or platform compared to 20 for Biden.
One network reporter compared Biden, who is known for his verbal gaffes and occasional stumbles at press conferences, to former President George W. Bush, arguing he’s better in a solo format and would be well-advised to do more such interviews.
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“The White House has to figure out how to put him into settings where he’s comfortable, and he can most effectively get his message out … Get [Biden] in a press conference, and there’s flashbacks of W where he’ll slip up here, slip up there,” he told Fox News Digital.
Making far more media appearances than the president is Vice President Kamala Harris. While Biden has done only three sit-downs so far in 2022, only one of them with a news organization, Harris has done a whopping 31 interviews. Since taking office, she has a running total of at least 89 media appearances versus Biden’s 25.
Fox News contributor Joe Concha said it’s a “lose-lose situation” for Biden.
“It seems invariably when the president does do any interviews or takes questions from the press, cleanup on aisle five occurs not long after. But if he isn’t doing interviews, then he can’t sell his agenda,” Concha told Fox News Digital.
“Canned speeches and tweets likely written for him aren’t going to move the needle one bit. He needs to sit down with somebody with real journalistic credibility and take the tough questions, but that’s obviously not going to happen anytime soon,” Concha continued. “And yet, the soon-to-be-ex White House press secretary continues to insist that he takes questions from the press all the time, which is about the best unintentional comedy out there.”
Facing both underwater approval ratings – one recent survey had him at just 33 percent approval – and historical headwinds – the party of sitting presidents usually lose House seats in midterm elections – Biden has a daunting task ahead of him if he wants to keep Democrats in power and not be legislatively dead in the water in 2023.
Part of that is communication with voters, who are giving him low marks on the economy, crime, immigration, and other key issues. Most Americans aren’t concerned with Elon Musk buying Twitter, the reporter noted, news which has consumed Washington media and politicians this week.
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“I think the Democrats are just so bad at politics; at some point they got so bad at the game,” the reporter said. “A good general message is the Republicans are crazy, they’re still in election denial … but then you go to the 25 or 30 districts that are going to determine who’s going to be Speaker, and the issues are about inflation, about crime, about the southern border.”
“I would be doing more on one on ones,” he added. “I would send him to the southern border, to New York City to drive around in a cop car with [Mayor Eric] Adams, send him to a grocery store to talk to a family about inflation. I would put him out that way and then let him do interviews, one-on-one on local channels, in the 25 or 30 districts that matter. The national debate doesn’t matter in congressional races. What matters at the end of the day is he helping people in the swing districts win or lose.”
Over the past two months, news has broken about Hunter Biden’s emails and business dealings, which would put President Biden in the position of answering questions about them if cornered in a solo interview. However, network news has shown little interest in covering those revelations; in fact, ABC, CBS, and NBC spent just a combined 25 minutes over the past 18 months covering Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop, according to analysis by the right-leaning Media Research Center.
The press has taken notice of Biden’s lack of availability for sit-down interviews, as Politico published a piece last year headlined, “Why Biden’s not doing interviews,” which noted he conducted more formal interviews as vice president than he has through the same period of his current gig.
“Biden’s team is quick to note that he often takes questions from reporters after he does events. Allies of the president are even quicker to note that no one outside of the Washington press corps really cares about press access,” Politico wrote. “But the lack of interviews reflects the bunker mentality this White House has taken with the media — particularly the extensive back-and-forths where reporters can follow-up, push, and prod.”
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Other typically left-leaning outlets have also called Biden out.
“While Biden was always expected to be more low-key than his media-obsessed predecessor, the president’s level of engagement with the press during his first year in office has left White House reporters grumbling and Democratic allies urging him to more aggressively sell his agenda to the American people, amid weak polls and fear of a 2022 midterms rout,” Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein wrote in December.
The New York Times reported in November that “some Democrats are asking if he could be making better use of his White House pulpit.”
In January the Associated Press published a story, “Biden shied away from news conferences, interviews in Year 1,” which noted he “participated in fewer media interviews than any of his recent predecessors.”
It seems the trend is continuing through his second year, too.