In the latest exhibit of Hiding Biden, the White House announced they will once again forego the tradition of a Super Bowl pregame interview of the president. It's one thing for Team Biden to be afraid of Fox News. But Obama donor Gayle King on CBS? On Monday night, CNN "Reliable Sources" newsletter Oliver Darcy ran defense under the headline "Biden's Media Scramble."
Biden's advisers have said that the decision to skip the interview was because they wanted to give the already fatigued public a break from politics during the big game. A White House official underscored that argument to me on Monday, adding that they believe the value of the interview has dropped, given it has over the years shifted from a more lighthearted media opportunity to a politics-focused affair.
This tradition really kicked in under Barack Obama, who always enjoyed the massive audience. Not every pregame interview was soft: Obama granted one to Fox star Bill O'Reilly. But Biden can't even take CBS pablum. Darcy continued:
The president is leaning far less than his predecessors on the traditional media apparatus to get his message out, opting instead for alternative mediums to address the American people.
"We are being more creative," a Biden campaign adviser told me Monday, "and relying less on formulas of the past."
To that end, the Biden team has worked to make inroads with online influencers who create content for platforms like TikTok and YouTube, briefing social media personalities on key events and inviting them at times to the White House. Biden's team has made the president available for podcasts, where he has chatted with Conan O'Brien and Anderson Cooper about grief and tragedy. And, just last week, he made calls into four Black radio stations ahead of the South Carolina primary.
"We are being less traditional because less people get their news from traditional mediums than ever before," the Biden campaign official said.
This avoidance of anyone harsher than Conan O'Brien or Anderson Cooper's grief podcast is "more creative?" If President Trump had only accepted interview requests from Fox News, would Darcy accept this spin? Somehow skipping media scrutiny is an acceptable strategy, even if grumpy conservatives take exception.
While the rise of social media and other platforms have given politicians new ways to communicate with the public, it has also allowed those in power to bypass the traditional press and, thus, avoid scrutiny. Biden's media strategy has renewed such questions, with critics skewering him for keeping an arm's length from the establishment press.
Biden's advisers insist that the president's embrace of alternate forms of media is about diversifying his outreach, not about shielding him from hard-hitting sit downs with tough journalists. They point to interviews Biden did last year with CBS News correspondent Scott Pelley for "60 Minutes" and CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria ahead of the G7 gathering.
"President Biden is crisscrossing the country at a rate that often exceeds his predecessors’ travel schedules [?!?], talking to the American people about their lives and the issues that matter most to them and executing an aggressive, modern, all-of-the-above communications and digital strategy that highlights how he’s fighting for families and their values," Andrew Bates, the deputy White House press secretary, told me in a statement Monday.
Darcy threw in former CNN anchor Frank Sesno as the reasonable (former) journalist who think this adds grist to Biden critics questioning his stamina and stability.
But why wouldn't the Biden White House/campaign keep skipping high-profile interviews? Which reporter (or media reporter) is really upset at how this shows contempt for the "professional media" and their supposed duty of "holding people accountable"? A little bit of the Democrat media's internal worry bubbled up from Dean Phillips in his hostile MSNBC interview on Sunday:
Dean Phillips on Hidin-Biden. "This notion of encapsulating him -- don't debate, don't appear in front of voters, don't do anything unscripted, don't do interviews, don't do town halls -- he's gonna have to! And when people see it, it's going to be REALLY difficult to overcome." pic.twitter.com/y8jhk8VtJl— Tim Graham (@TimJGraham) February 5, 2024