Questioned by Fox News’ Peter Doocy on whether inflation would be “a political liability ahead of the midterms,” President Joe Biden sarcastically responded, “That’s a great asset, more inflation. What a stupid son of a b—-.” While temper tantrums from the president have become more prevalent over his year in office, such a public display shines a spotlight on how dysfunctional the relationship between the White House and the media actually is.
The president appears unable to answer tough questions without resorting to snark and insults, and yet even softball questions have begun to elicit irritable responses. Some worry that such outbursts are a manifestation of the oft-raised subject of Biden’s cognitive issues, specifically dementia.
An Abusive Relationship?
The president apparently called Doocy about an hour after the incident and said, “It’s nothing personal, pal.” Not quite an apology for an irrational outburst, but a message that was appreciated by Doocy himself. Speaking on Hannity later in the day, he said, “I don’t need anybody to apologize to me. He can call me whatever he wants as long as it gets him talking!”
But what to make of the initial insult? A number of pro-Biden media outlets spun the altercation as a “hot mic” moment, suggesting that it was a carelessness to which many world leaders have succumbed. Yet this take on the matter is at best disingenuous. President Biden had just finished speaking and was still in place at the podium; no microphones had been disconnected, and indeed, many reporters were still trying to get their questions answered. It didn’t appear to be a genuine “hot mic moment,” (which generally signals the speaker is unaware that the microphone is on), which is why many see this as simply Joe being Joe.
President Donald Trump spent his four years at the helm as the scourge of the Fourth Estate. Always eager to engage, he tackled correspondents with a ferocity that many opponents considered rude and that the media deemed dangerous. And yet, when Biden calls Peter Doocy a “stupid son of a b—,” or demeans Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich, saying, “What a stupid question” when asked why he is waiting for Vladimir Putin to make the first move on Ukraine, the current president gets a pass.
In 2018, CNN’s Brian Stelter was seemingly aghast when President Trump used precisely the same language. He tweeted:
“Calling a reporter a ‘son of a b—?’ It was wrong when Trump was just a candidate, and it’s even worse now that he’s POTUS.”
Within hours of his old tweet resurfacing, Stelter sought to justify his previous comments, posting, “This is from 2018. It’s still true. Biden was wrong to call Doocy an SOB. The press is right to hold presidents to high standards. Biden doesn’t berate the media like Trump, so the context for today is different, but it’s still out of line.”
So a mild rebuke instead of a media trouncing because of Biden’s past record of being friendly to the press? But perhaps the Fourth Estate – if not willing to hold presidents to its journalistic standard – should consider holding presidents to their own self-imposed standards.
Dignity, Respect, and Unity?
When Biden took office a little over 12 months ago, he attempted to set the tone for a kinder and more respectful workplace, ostensibly as a rebuke to his predecessor. He said:
“I’m not joking when I say this: If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect or talk down to someone, I promise you, I will fire you on the spot — on the spot. No ifs ands or buts … Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity.”
Apparently, such stern edicts do not apply to the president himself.
Hot mic moments aside, the president is increasingly abrupt, defensive, rude, and – as was witnessed yesterday – insulting to those who dare to question his actions. If Biden cannot take the mental heat required for the role, perhaps it’s time to leave the White House kitchen.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.