President Biden ignored questions from reporters about COVID on Thursday, looking down at his desk and smiling.
A reporter asked, “Mr. President, for vaccinated Americans who are wondering why they should continue to restrict their activities, given your health officials say most Americans will get COVID at some point.”
Biden replied, “Folks, we’ll talk about that later, c’mon.”
A reporter asked as she was being shuffled from the room, “Maybe a press conference soon, Mr. President? We would look forward to that.”
“Me too,” Biden responded with a smile before putting on his mask.
For four years under former President Donald Trump, the national media styled itself as both victims and heroes. But as much as they despised him, the media could rarely say Trump was not willing to engage.
According to a new study by Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor emerita in political science at Towson University and director of the White House Transition Project.
Kumar compared Biden’s interactions with the media during his first year in office to those of his most predecessors. She found that, as the Associated Press put it, Biden “shied away” from the media more than other recent presidents.
According to her report, Biden has done just 22 media interviews, which is fewer than any of his six most recent predecessors, and conducted just nine formal news conferences, three of which were held jointly with a visiting foreign leader.
The only president to host fewer press conferences was Ronald Reagan, whose schedule, as the AP noted, was dialed back significantly after Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt in 1981.
Still, Kumar reports that Reagan held 59 media interviews in 1981, nearly triple the number the allegedly physically fit and coherent Biden did.
Here’s the comparison to Biden’s paltry 31 interviews and press conferences during his first 12 months in office: George H.W. Bush, 77; Bill Clinton, 92; George W. Bush, 68; Barack Obama, 183; Trump, 114.
Biden did far outpace his predecessors in what Kumar referred to as “informal” Q&A sessions. He’s had 216 of those moments, which is second only to Clinton’s 245.
But, as the AP reported, “those exchanges often don’t allow for follow-up questions, and Biden can ignore questions he might not want to answer.”
“He routinely pauses to talk to reporters who shout questions over Marine One’s whirring propellers as he comes and goes from the White House. He parries with journalists at Oval Office photo ops and other events. But these exchanges have their limitations.”
As Kumar herself observed, “While President Biden has taken questions more often at his events than his predecessors, he spends less time doing so. He provides short answers with few follow-ups when he takes questions at the end of a previously scheduled speech.”
Regarding those instances, Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and a reporter for CBS News Radio, told the AP, “Fleeting exchanges are insufficient to building the historical record of the president’s views on a broad array of public concerns. We have had scant opportunities in this first year to learn the president’s views on a broad range of public concerns.”
“The more formal the exchange with the press, the more the public is apt to learn about what’s on the man’s mind,” he added.
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