On Monday it was announced that President Joe Biden would be appearing at a CNN town hall event with Anderson Cooper on Thursday, the second town hall he’s done with the longtime anchor in a year’s time, the first one being in September 2020.
Set to take place in Baltimore, CNN noted in their write-up on the news that the event would be “invitation-only” (which is media-speak for “highly scripted”):
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper will moderate the live broadcast event, which will air at 8 p.m. ET on CNN and last 90 minutes. A CNN spokesperson said an invitation-only audience will be present at the town hall and the network will follow all local and state Covid-19 guidance and regulations to ensure a safe event. The town hall’s location will be announced in the coming days.
And just to emphasize where the administration’s priorities are in the midst of the pandemic and economic crises, it was also reported that Vice President Kamala Harris, who was last seen in a cringe video that was set to air in 300 black churches in Virginia on behalf of embattled Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe, will be stumping for him in person on the same day Biden will appear on CNN.
Biden appearing on a Biden-friendly network for a town hall that will be moderated by a Biden-friendly media figure like Cooper again brought to the forefront the constant issues the mainstream media have had with getting him to do solo formal press conferences and sit-down interviews with national media outlets, a problem Politico White House reporter Alex Thompson tweeted about in a short thread yesterday listing some inconvenient truths about the POTUS:
Number of Anderson Cooper town halls as President: 2
Number of sit downs w/ WSJ, NYT, or Wapo reporters (not columnists): 0
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) October 18, 2021
He also referenced the fact that Biden has done zero sit-down interviews with Politico.
Thompson then brought up an August tweet from former CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who is viewed in media circles as the king of presidential stats, where Knoller tallied up Biden’s interview schedule at that point in his presidency in comparison to former Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama. The numbers were, of course, awful:
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) October 18, 2021
Thompson admitted that him pointing all this out was, “a bit self-serving, obviously,” but nevertheless went on to state that Biden emphasizing how much he wanted to “sell his agenda” to the country was at odds with the fact that he has maybe made it “harder to do that only through staged events.”
“He’s just not doing many interviews, even w/ reporters or other non-DC outlets,” Thompson concluded, before sharing a screengrab of a “like” from Biden White House rapid response director Mike Gwin, who was clearly monitoring what Thompson had to say.
To add my .02 to all this, it’s not just that Biden rarely does a sit-down interview, but when he does sit down with a media outlet it’s usually one known to be obscenely friendly with him, which CNN and ABC News obviously are. Not only that, but when he schedules a “press conference,” it’s a “press conference” in name only because he almost never takes questions at them.
Last I checked, public figures usually took questions when they invited the press to appear at an event, which also brings up the issue about how Biden rarely engages in back and forths with reporters even when he’s passing by them on the White House lawn – something that press secretary Jen Psaki admitted in May was an actual strategy recommended to him by the comms staff.
As evidence of this strategy, take a look at this clip of him from last week, which I wrote about Monday. In it, Biden is seen looking disengaged and just staring blankly at reporters as they yell out questions to him on some of the pressing issues of the day. Outside of a brief wave, he simply ignores them and continues walking away from them in a robotic fashion before preparing to board Marine One:
WATCH: Joe Biden stares at reporters while ignoring their questions.
“Can we ask you about inflation?”
“What’s your message to Americans concerned about disruptions in the supply chain?”
Biden hasn’t taken a single question in 7 days. pic.twitter.com/jLQxz83FR5
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 15, 2021
I’m so old I remember when the press routinely whined about Trump’s contentious relationship with them. Trump despised the media for very good reasons, but even at that engaging with them was like catnip to him, and he did so frequently, as Knoller’s stats prove. He clearly enjoyed the sparring and the chance to try to set the record straight if need be. This mindset was also reflected in his press secretaries like Kayleigh McEnany and Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
For Biden, on the other hand, the talk last year of how his administration was going to “restore” the “respectful” relationship between the White House and the press ended up being eerily prescient, but not in the way they were suggesting. What those of us familiar with the cozy relationship that has long existed between Democrats and members of the media knew at the time is that what it really meant was that things would get back to business as usual, with the press by and large doing the bidding of the Democrat and eagerly accepting the scattered scraps of time that were thrown to them for questions, the exact opposite of the combative, hostile, and constantly-accusatory manner in which they have typically treated Republicans.
But while more and more reporters are raising the troubling issue of Biden’s notorious lack of availability with the media, it is still for the most part very much a friendly environment for Democrats as far as the press goes in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to ever change, but fortunately, there are plenty of us around on standby ready to call them out for it loudly and often whenever it happens.