Only Friendly Journalists for Joe Biden: Strategy or Protection?

At the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival in Austin, New York Times reporter Zolan Kanno-Youngs took President Biden to task for solely doing interviews with friendly talk show hosts.

During a panel discussion on how journalists cover the Biden administration, Kanno-Youngs appeared alongside other White House correspondents who were asked why President Biden is less accessible to the press than his predecessor, former President Trump, who frequently granted interviews.

Kannos-Youngs noted that daily press briefings weren’t a constant under the Trump administration. While the Biden White House reinstated daily press briefings, the current administration has a different standard for transparency.

The Times correspondent also mentioned that in June 2022, Biden only offered an interview to a print outlet, the Associated Press, though he did provide an interview to the Times’ empathetic columnist David Brooks.

“I don’t think they see that they may be meeting that standard by putting the president up for interviews with, I would say, friendly talk show hosts and maybe getting their message out on social media,” Kanno-Youngs said. 

“Their priority is getting their message out for the agenda and galvanizing voters. Our priority will be to ask them tough questions and hold them accountable. And I think there’s still value in putting a president up against a reporter from any of our outlets. And if you don’t, you know, if you create a void of information, other people will fill it with their assumptions, which I think is factored into questions over whether this is a strategy or potentially protecting him from reporters,” he continued.

Kanno-Youngs noted all three of Biden’s most recent interviews—with MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace in June, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in July, and The Weather Channel just last month—have been positive.

None of the three interviewers asked him about the mounting legal trouble his son Hunter faces, the allegations of DOJ interference in the Hunter probe by IRS whistleblowers, or the growing controversy surrounding his family’s accumulation of foreign money, which House Republicans uncovered.

In May, MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle asked Biden about Hunter and stated sympathetically, “There’s something personal that’s affecting you. Your son could be charged by your Department of Justice. How would that impact your presidency?”

CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Hunter exactly one question when it was first announced in October 2022 that the DOJ was pursuing tax and gun criminal charges against Hunter: “Personally and politically, how do you react to that?”

The recent controversy surrounding Biden makes it less likely that he will grant an interview to a challenging reporter. While trying to empathize with victims of the Maui wildfires and Hurricane Idalia, the president was criticized for rehashing the old, false story that he nearly lost his wife, cat, and 1967 Corvette in a 2004 house fire.

He was criticized for his inconsistent mask-wearing as the first lady recovered from COVID and for abruptly leaving a Medal of Honor ceremony early.

During his overseas trip, he made controversial remarks at a press conference in Hanoi, prompting the White House staff to play him off with music as he responded to reporters’ questions.

Biden was criticized for releasing $6 billion to Iran, the top state sponsor of terrorism, in exchange for five American prisoners, announced on the 22nd anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Biden also missed 9/11 ceremonies in New York and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, despite falsely claiming to be at Ground Zero the day after the attack.

Matters only got worse with the federal gun charges brought against Hunter Biden by Special Counsel David Weiss after what was dubbed the Sweetheart Deal between the president’s son and the DOJ was tossed out in court.