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Biden's historic avoidance of formal media questions irritates press: 'There's a lot of frustration'

Joe Biden held a rare press conference on Tuesday, and the press corps is growing more frustrated at the historic lack of access it has to the president.

President Biden held a rare press conference on Tuesday, and the unusual occurrence only underscored to an increasingly annoyed media how inaccessible he has been compared to his predecessors.

A longtime Washington correspondent told Fox News Digital the expectation that Biden should stand before reporters and consistently answer questions was "pretty basic."

"I think there's a lot of frustration that there have been so incredibly few press conferences and so few opportunities generally to ask questions of the president," they said. "It's a fundamental thing. You know that the press corps has a job and it's not just reporters trying to get questions asked for their own personal well-being… You're representing your viewers and your readers and your listeners."

Added a White House correspondent: "There are serious concerns in the White House press corps about the way staff are hiding the president… I would be surprised if Biden has another full solo press conference again in the remainder of his political career."


The New York Times noted last week that Biden has held the fewest news conferences of any president since Ronald Reagan, holding just his 24th on Tuesday according to the American Presidency Project. He only granted 54 interviews in the first two years he held office, compared to 202 by President Trump and 275 by President Obama. In response to the criticism, a White House official told the Times Biden had held "nearly 400" question-and-answer sessions, which even the newspaper noted were often "very brief."

"More than any president in recent memory, Mr. Biden, 80, has taken steps to reduce opportunities for journalists to question him in forums where he can offer unscripted answers and they can follow up," The New York Times reported.

When he has done conferences, he's been prepared. At Tuesday's conference alongside South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, photographers caught a glimpse of his notes which suggested knowledge of Los Angeles Times reporter Courtney Subramanian's question about chip manufacturing ahead of time. The newspaper denied she had submitted her question before she asked it.

All presidents and their respective press corps have mutual frustrations. While Trump was at times more than eager to hold forth with the press, he was accused of favoring conservative outlets, and his rhetoric about the media being the "enemy of the people" in response to intensely negative coverage generated an acrimonious relationship.

Biden, more than aware of the mutual disdain between Trump and reporters, knew he had a low bar to clear to win their approval as he took office. His first press secretary Jen Psaki – now an MSNBC host – won plaudits from the likes of CNN's Brian Stelter for promising to tell the truth and restore daily briefings. And he's seemingly realized there's little downside to spurning the press, beyond humoring a few shouted questions at times by Marine One on the White House lawn, if the most they do is grumble from time to time about it.

"I have no doubt that is the way [White House aides] view it, that there's a greater risk of the president saying something and getting thrown off message than there is of having people upset that he's not holding press conferences," the Washington correspondent said. "I mean, one's a pretty low risk. One's a pretty high risk. But I just look at it in terms of the fundamental responsibilities of the job. I also think it often backfires when the people around a president or a presidential candidate feel that they have to so carefully manage all of his interactions with anybody who might ask a question."

The Times pointed out that "only Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan held as few news conferences each year as the current occupant of the Oval Office" in the 100 years since Calvin Coolidge took office. 


"The president’s strategy of keeping the press at arm’s length is a bet that he can sidestep those traditions in a new media environment," Times reporter Michael Shear wrote. 

Biden formally announced his 2024 re-election bid this week, in a far different environment than how he was able to run once he captured the Democratic nomination in 2020, a year defined by the coronavirus pandemic. Now, staying hunkered down won't be as easy to pull off.

"Biden absolutely needs to get out in the media and defend his agenda, his age, and his campaign, but aides will obviously weigh the benefits and the pitfalls of putting him on a camera they don't control," the White House correspondent said.

Outspoken White House reporter Simon Ateba, who has at times fiercely clashed with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, said the more Biden opens himself up, the more it creates an opening for Republicans due to his penchant for gaffes.

"This might also backfire if the Republican nominee eventually begins to perform well and do multiple interviews that the American people can connect with. Biden is not very eloquent and charming when it comes to presentation of his ideas," he told Fox News Digital.

He added "frustration has been growing in the briefing room," noting Biden has never once come to answer questions there. 

"Those reporters can only blame themselves as a few of them have antagonized me multiple times as I kept asking for access and urging the press secretary to call on me and other reporters in the back of the room," he said.

Biden faced backlash in October when he sat down for a conversation with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, who has since gained prominence over a disastrous partnership with Bud Light. The Times referred to such conversations as a "means of generating publicity."

Biden went nearly 200 days without being interviewed by an American TV journalist at one point in 2022. As the White House attempted to rally the left ahead of midterm elections, Biden spoke to CBS, CNN, MSNBC and Mulvaney for left-wing outlet NowThis News, but then he reverted to largely avoiding tough interviews. 


Biden still managed to generate negative publicity during the friendly chat with Mulvaney when he was asked if states should have the right to "ban gender-affirming health care."

"I don’t think any state or anybody should have the right to do that — as a moral question and as a legal question. I just think it’s wrong," Biden said.

Many were left stunned at Biden’s remarks, and Rhode Island mother Nicole Solas joined "Fox & Friends First" the same to voice her concerns on the subject. 

"They don't really care about kids, what they care about is advancing their radical LGBTQ agenda, and kids are really just casualties and vehicles to promote that," Solas said. "Parents need to stand up to this. You need to know if your school is doing this secretly because it can have catastrophic consequences."

In addition to Mulvaney, Biden has also spoken to Hollywood actors Jason Bateman and Drew Barrymore, as well as makeup guru Manny MUA.

As the liberal paper pointed out, Biden wasn’t exactly faced with tough questions. 

"Barrymore’s opening question during her interview was about whether Mr. Biden was a good gift giver to his wife, prompting a long conversation about the poems that he writes for the first lady every year," Shear wrote, adding that White House officials are quick to point out casual interactions Biden has with reporters on a regular basis. 

"But those interactions between Mr. Biden and reporters are usually very brief, with shouted questions that the president often chooses not to answer. When he does, it is sometimes with a clipped, one- or two-word response," Shear wrote. 


Jean-Pierre claimed earlier this month that Biden has taken more questions from the press than former Presidents Trump, Obama and George W. Bush combined. However, it appeared she was counting shouted questions that Biden either ignored or didn’t hear. 

Fox News contributor Joe Concha believes Biden’s strategy to avoid tough questions will actually benefit him leading up to the 2024 election.

"Most of our media will continue to focus on Trump to make the election a referendum on him," Concha said. 

"Karine Jean-Pierre recently claimed this president takes more questions than his predecessors combined. Obviously a lie, but we saw zero pushback from fact-checkers," Concha continued before predicting a return to his COVID-era campaign strategy. 

"Biden will get away with the basement strategy and campaigning through highly-produced, homogenized videos," Concha said. "Americans should demand better."

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