NY Times reveals Biden has held fewest press conferences since Reagan: ‘Strategy to protect from criticism
As reported by New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear, President Joe Biden has held the "fewest" press conferences since Ronald Reagan was in office.
In a piece for the outlet, Shear called out the Biden administration for being one of the least accessible presidents to the press in 100 years, despite his administration pledging he would have one the most transparent presidencies.
The reporter surmised that Biden’s few interactions with the media is evidence that "his political strategists want to protect him from the unscripted exchanges that have often resulted in missteps and criticism."
Shear’s piece began with the numbers on just how rare it is for Biden to offer unscripted answers to the press, stating, "In the 100 years since Calvin Coolidge took office, only Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan held as few news conferences each year as the current occupant of the Oval Office."
The report touched on how, during Biden’s recent trip to Ireland, he "abandoned the decades-old tradition of holding a news conference while abroad." And when he met with Colombian President Gustavo Petro this week, "the two did not hold a news conference together, another practice of his predecessors that Mr. Biden has frequently chosen to skip," Shear observed.
The report noted the hypocrisy of Biden’s actions, considering his staff’s campaign promises. Shear wrote, "And despite his press secretary pledging that Mr. Biden would ‘bring transparency and truth back to the government,’ in his first two years, the president granted the fewest interviews since Mr. Reagan’s presidency: only 54."
In that same span of time during their respective presidencies, "Donald J. Trump gave 202," while "Barack Obama gave 275," Shear wrote.
He added, "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 result, critics say, is a president who has fewer moments of public accountability for his comments, decisions and actions."
The Times piece surmised that Biden’s decision to withhold from the press is deliberate strategy to spare him criticism and embarrassment for his many gaffes and awkward public moments.
It said, "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. And it is public evidence that Mr. Biden’s political strategists want to protect him from the unscripted exchanges that have often resulted in missteps and criticism."
Of course, the Biden team claims this strategy is about reaching "the American people wherever and however they consume media, and that’s not just through the briefing room or Washington-based news outlets," White House comms director Ben LaBolt said.
He added, "the fracturing of the media and the changing nature of information consumption requires a communications strategy that adapts to reach Americans where they get the news."
LaBolt maintained that Biden has "held nearly 400 question-and-answer sessions with reporters since he took office," noting that is more than Trump, Obama, or former President George W. Bush did.
However, Shear clarified in his write-up, "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."
Elsewhere in his piece, The White House reporter cited data showing that presidents’ "exchanges with reporters are far less common than they used to be."
He wrote, "According to The American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Mr. Biden averaged 10 news conferences per year during his first two years in office, including 11 solo sessions and nine with foreign leaders. Mr. Trump averaged 19.5 during that same period. Mr. Obama averaged 23, and Mr. Clinton averaged 41.5."
Shear also reported that "Since taking office, [Biden] has not done a single interview with reporters from a major newspaper."