Biden takes a turn from Trump in his approach to the media 2022-04-30 10:58:00


President Biden has kept the media out of reach while certainly less combative than his predecessor with reporters, an approach that will be demonstrated when he attends this weekend’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

While Biden has maintained a subdued and limited relationship with members of the White House press corps, he has also maintained a level of friendship and respect for the media, which stands in sharp contrast to former President Trump’s continued attacks on media credibility.

It’s an approach that administration officials say is deliberate, and that Democrats say is part of Biden’s effort to return the White House to a more normal relationship with the media.

“He loves the press, and appreciates what you all do, but it was a bit off on purpose,” said one administration official.

The administration official acknowledged that Biden has given fewer interviews and press conferences, but said voters don’t care and said the president has found other ways to penetrate a broader audience.

“No one is sitting there at home counting the number of interviews they are doing,” the official said. “Could he do more? Could. But what he did was effective.”

Saturday’s event will be the first time since 2016 that a sitting president will attend the dinner, a glamorous affair that has become a staple of Washington’s political class. Trump rejected the event for the four years and even prevented employees from attending the last time the rally was held.

Celebrating the return of a president who has been attending dinner is significant and symbolic, said Julian Zelizer, an American political historian at Princeton University.

“I think by doing that, it’s a way to express my appreciation for yourself on some level or just to show: I support what you’re doing, even if there are limits to how much you’ll hear from me,” he said.

The president might use his dinner address to stress the importance of facts and journalism in democracy, something that could be considered a Trump-lined shot.

“We have the midterm elections coming up, and we have a number of truth deniers on the ballot, and the important message he can deliver is that the truth matters, that understanding history matters, and we have to believe in facts and not lies if we believe in facts, not lies,” said Basil Smekel, Democratic strategist and director of the public policy program. At Hunter College: “We want to move forward as a country.”

Biden lost his temper with a few reporters and on a hot mic named Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Dossey, a “stupid son of a bitch.”

However, in general, he has had a much less aggressive approach to the press than Trump, who has constantly fought reporters.

Trump also engaged in long and regular hostile meetings with reporters in the Oval Office and on the South Lawn of the White House – while getting to Biden was less difficult.

The limited engagements are widely seen as an effort by the White House to keep Biden, who may be prone to gaffes in unwritten notes, in the letter.

“A president who tends to gaffes makes fewer mistakes if he is not in a position to talk to the media so that the gaffe does not become the story,” Smekell said. “Too tight control of the message means tight control of it, too.”

Biden has sat for key television interviews with CBS, NBC, and ABC and has participated in meetings with CNN. Only two of the two interviews he has given since taking office last year have been with print publications – one with New York Times columnist David Brooks and the other with The Atlantic. Both interviews took place in the first half of last year.

Biden held a press conference in January that appeared aimed at criticism that he allowed less access. He might have also sent a message about his stamina as chief Spent 120 minutes Asking questions in what is believed to be the longest press conference in the history of the White House.

As vice president, Biden had a different relationship with the press. Each summer at the Naval Observatory, Biden’s Beach Boardwalk Bash would host reporters, and he would often chase reporters and their children with water cannons. He also held informal conversations with reporters at events and dinner parties where he was known to express his opinions on any political subject.

He would make news in interviews, including in 2012, when he voiced support for same-sex marriage on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Zelizer argued that Biden could be a pro-press president and not give many interviews, but it’s a precarious balance.

“I think they can coexist. We’ve just come out of the presidency where the press as an institution has been under constant attack and you obviously don’t hear anything about that. It’s standing on a tough line.”

He’s trying to be one of the bosses, at least now, and he’s limited in what he’s going to give you. On the other hand, he tries to say that he supports the press. You have to go down that line and you have to see if it gets to a point where the press says it’s very limited.”

Biden’s appearance at the rally will be more prominent as it comes during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted annual dinner plans for the past two years. Biden has received COVID-19 vaccines and booster doses, but his age has raised some questions about his attendance at dinners and other large gatherings. Vice President Harris tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and is currently working remotely from home.

Psaki said Biden will not attend the dinner portion of the event and will likely wear a mask when not speaking, as the White House looks to limit his exposure to the virus.

Barbara Berry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, argued that attending dinner this year could easily work in Biden’s favour.

“It was such a historic period in presidential history, when a president did not come because of his completely hostile relationship with the press, calling them enemies of the state, and then the coronavirus struck,” she said. “This is another good stage, if used properly, for the president himself serving as well as for the institution.”