NewsBusters Podcast: Reporters Admit They Stunk on Biden's Age Problem

July 3rd, 2024 10:36 PM

CNN media reporter Hadas Gold found some less-than-courageous journalists to admit (anonymously) that they could have done a much better job of reporting on President Biden's cognitive decline before the disastrous debate. But they worried about the "blowback" from Team Biden and from the "liberal Twittersphere."

The failure of the media, one White House reporter said, was not pushing more aggressively into Biden’s abilities after the release of the Robert Hur report in February, which called Biden a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Biden’s age was also a right-wing talking point for years, something the White House was quick to point out to reporters, which may have inadvertently turned off any serious investigation.

For example, deceptively edited clips of Biden from the G7 spread widely by right-wing media figures were made to seem as though he was aimlessly “wandering off” from fellow world leaders when really, he was speaking to parachutists who had just landed during a demonstration.

“The right-wing media was calling him senile from day one, and that wasn’t true,” the reporter said. “Then whenever you report on the age you were in some ways solidifying, giving credence to some people that were actually of bad faith.”

The Pulitzer Prize for understatement could have gone to the reporter who said, “I think the press, most of the White House press, did suffer from a bit of lack of curiosity.” 

“It makes sense to reflect on this now and ask whether we missed or, really, under-reported the story of Biden’s age and decline. But it’s complicated,” one of the reporters said. “The fact that the political alternative to Biden is an authoritarian who sparked an insurrection and is a convicted felon does not mean that the press is failing American democracy to focus on Biden’s obvious frailty.”

Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson told the website Semafor that while she didn't like The Wall Street Journal story on Biden "slipping" (too many Republicans in it), "I do think if enough reporters had pushed, the story was reportable. I worry that too many journalists didn’t try to get the story because they did not want to be accused of helping elect Donald Trump. I get that. But this is no excuse for abandoning our first duty, which is to report the truth and hold power accountable. President Biden should be held accountable for his obvious lapses of mental acuity, even if there are periods of lucidity."

Enjoy the podcast below, or wherever you listen.