On Tuesday, September 21, the news media were treated to a nasty surprise during a meeting between President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the Oval Office. The relationship between the two leaders has recently been tense, with friction developing due to the American president’s unilateral pullout from Afghanistan that lacked any coordination with the United Kingdom at the outset. The scheduled meeting at the White House was intended to demonstrate Biden’s commitment to the special relationship between the two countries in light of the recent military partnership, but it was derailed by none other than the president himself.
As talks between the two leaders began winding down, Johnson asked Biden for permission to take questions from the White House press pool. He answered a question from one British reporter and was then apparently cut off during his response to another. After that, White House aides began shouting and demanding that reporters leave the room. The frantic scene was widely reported, drawing aghast reactions from journalists and other media members as editorial staff from the White House press pool lodged a formal complaint with Press Secretary Jen Psaki. These staff members also pointed out that the president has not held a traditional press conference for weeks.
Better the Devil You Know…
Talking heads from the mainstream media routinely expressed outrage at the ridicule and hostility directed towards them during the Trump presidency. Reporters often accused the previous administration of making their jobs a nightmare, and citing the president’s sometimes inflammatory comments about their work. At the time, the press ignored the reality that Americans have held deep distrust for the mainstream media for a while. The Biden administration had claimed it would be the most transparent in history. Yet, White House staff seem very afraid of showing off the president in public.
Biden has repeatedly joked that his staff would be upset with him for taking questions from journalists whose names weren’t written down on a piece of paper. During the Afghanistan evacuation crisis, the president ran away from the press during five different speeches and remarks about evacuation efforts, keeping Americans in the dark about what was going on in the country. Even left-wing journalists who gladly reported on the president’s ice cream habits just months earlier began to question the sincerity of an administration actively encouraging its leader to refrain from interacting with the press.
When attempting to explain the new normal of the Biden administration, the consensus seems to be that White House officials would rather the president lie low in these times of record-low approval from the American people. On Wednesday, a Gallup poll showed the president had an abysmal 43% approval rating eight months into office. While partisan approval ratings mostly remained as expected, independents have overwhelmingly turned against the president in recent weeks.
It has become impossible to ignore the lack of media presence Biden has had over the last two months. The administration’s repeated failures to enact its agenda combined with a deliberate limiting of exposure to reporters seems to have created a disconnect between the president, the media, and the American people. As it stands, there remains no end in sight to the administration’s woes if it continues to remain fearful of a media that were once its greatest allies.
~ Read more from Jose Backer.
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