As a presidential candidate, President Biden campaigned on being “transparent” with the press, hoping to restore civility between the White House and the media following years of hostility during the Trump era. But in the second year of his presidency, his availability to the press has only further dissipated.
In 2022, President Biden has granted only seven one-on-one interviews to journalists. His first was the pre-Super Bowl sit-down with NBC’s Lester Holt in early February. He waited until June, over four months, to do an off-camera interview with the Associated Press.
The following month, Biden sat down with Israeli anchor Yonit Levi of Channel 12. He then waited until September before doing an interview with CBS News’ Scott Pelley that aired on “60 Minutes.”
In October, in the final stretch ahead of the 2022 midterms, Biden did interviews with CNN’s Jake Tapper, MSNBC host and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, and Nexstar’s Reshad Hudson.
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He has not sat down with an actual journalist since Oct. 27. His most recent TV interview aired Monday with actress-turned-daytime talk show host Drew Barrymore, when he, alongside first lady Jill Biden, discussed being the brunt of his wife’s teasing and played a version of “The Newlywed Game.”
“We’ve never seen a more packaged, homogenized, protected president than Joe Biden,” Fox News contributor and media analyst Joe Concha said. “His handlers are petrified of him sitting down for anything resembling a challenging interview.”
Biden was outdone by his second in command, Vice President Kamala Harris, who has done at least 12 interviews with news organizations in 2022, including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, PBS and Vice News.
The interviews Biden granted throughout the year tended to be much friendlier sit-downs, like with liberal historian Heather Cox Richardson and progressive YouTube host Brian Tyler Cohen in February, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel in June, radio hosts DL Hughley, Willie Moore, Jr., and Al Sharpton in November, and Barrymore this month.
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Additionally, the president submitted written responses to the digital outlet The Skimm, talked cars with Jay Leno on his CNBC program and had technical difficulties plaguing his phone call to NBC’s Dylan Dreyer during the network’s coverage of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The president granted less than half as many interviews with journalists in 2022 as he did in 2021. Last year, he spoke with news organizations 15 times, including three CNN town halls.
While the White House touts how Biden occasionally takes spontaneous questions shouted at him from reporters at various events, the president has rarely held formal press conferences. In 2022, he only held five solo press conferences (he held six in 2021) and six joint press conferences (three in 2021), according to data from UC Santa Barbara’s The American Presidency Project.
Biden’s combined 11 press conferences fall short of his closest predecessors in their second year in office, Donald Trump’s 18 press conferences (five solo, 13 joint) and Barack Obama’s 19 (10 solo, nine joint), data shows. No president has done fewer press conferences in their second year in office than Biden since former President Reagan.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
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During his press conferences, Biden is routinely provided with a list of pre-selected reporters for him to call on, which has drawn ire from critics.
“Now, I’ve been given a list of 10 people that I’m supposed to call on, and you’re all supposed to ask me one question, but I’m sure you’ll ask me more. So let me start off with the list I’ve been given,” Biden told reporters at his most recent press conference following the November midterms.
Biden raised eyebrows in August 2021 when he told the press he was “instructed” to call on the pre-selected reporters.
Last year, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki admitted that staff urged Biden not to take impromptu questions from reporters.
“That is not something we recommend. In fact, a lot of times we say ‘don’t take questions,'” Psaki said during an interview with David Axelod. “But he’s going to do what he wants to do because he’s the President of the United States.”
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Biden has been called out for his minimalist approach to the media.
“As president, Donald J. Trump was a media maximalist whose unavoidable-for-comment style helped generate saturation news coverage, for better or worse. President Biden has taken a stingier approach to his dealings with the press — and not all his allies believe it’s working out,” The New York Times reported in November 2021 about Biden’s “low-key media strategy.”
Politico similarly swiped the president’s lack of media presence last year, writing “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 .”