Friday is the 100th day of Joe Biden’s term. Traditionally, this period of a presidency involves media discussion of honeymoons, mandates, and ambitious agendas, but also of burgeoning scandals that threaten to stall the new administration’s momentum. Biden, however, has kept his scandal quotient near zero by refusing to address topics besides his popular COVID and economic relief initiatives. While some real screw-ups have taken place, they have been outnumbered by faux controversies hyped ineffectively by Republicans desperate to get traction against a president who appeals to many Americans because they don’t need to pay attention to what he’s doing on a day-to-day basis. We’ve ranked them all here, in order, from most to least legitimately suggestive of presidential dishonesty and/or incompetence. And yes, the hamburger thing is last.
• The refugee cap. On April 16, the administration announced that it would not be raising the historically low annual cap on refugee admissions imposed by Donald Trump, despite Biden having promised to do so many times during the 2020 campaign. This was a moral and political error whose egregiousness was made clear immediately when it was criticized openly by basically every other elected Democrat, including centrist-minded senior figures like Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin. Biden seems to have reasoned that raising Trump’s xenophobic refugee limit would draw attention to the administratively unrelated blame he is taking for an increase in undocumented Mexico–U.S. border crossings that began in 2020—blame that, however dubious, is understood by poll watchers as something that might weaken his standing with some swing voters. But everyone in the party except Biden seemed to believe that breaking a campaign promise in order to endorse an intentionally immigrant-hostile Trump policy was both bad governance and bad politics, and, after a few hours, the administration reversed its reversal.
• Hunter Biden’s trash gun. In March, Politico reported on a 2018 incident in which a gun belonging to Biden’s son Hunter was briefly lost in the trash outside a Delaware grocery store after Hallie Biden—Hunter’s sister-in-law, the widow of his late brother Beau—took the gun away from Hunter and tried to dispose of it there. (It was eventually found by a man collecting recyclables.) Anonymous sources told the publication that, while the gun was still missing, Secret Service agents tried to take possession of gun-store paperwork that documented Hunter’s original purchase of the weapon. (The gothic slapstick of it all was undermined by the news that, according to a police report, Hunter believes Hallie confiscated the gun out of fear that he might harm himself.) Despite involving a facially credible allegation of an abuse of power—the idea is that the Secret Service might have tried to take the paperwork to prevent Hunter from being linked back to the then-missing gun if it ended up being used in a crime—this story hasn’t developed any further, perhaps because Republicans spent so much time crying wolf about Hunter Biden stories before and during the 2020 campaign. Congressional members of the GOP are, nonetheless, trying to keep it in the news.
• Neera Tanden’s mean tweets. Yes, we’re on the third one of these and already using the phrase “mean tweets”—it’s been a wild three months! But it does in fact qualify as a scandal, or at least a misstep, by historical standards, that would-be Office of Management and Budget director Neera Tanden’s nomination was pulled because some Senate Republicans were upset that she had previously used Twitter to describe them with such vicious, graphic insults as “the worst” and “Voldemort.”
• T.J. Ducklo. This one is not funny even in a Veep kind of way, but ranks below Tanden because of how minor a figure was involved, namely T.J. Ducklo, a deputy press secretary who resigned after Vanity Fair reported that he’d threatened to “destroy” a Politico reporter who was working on a story he didn’t like; Ducklo also told the reporter that he believed she was jealous of him for some reason involving a different man not being interested in having sex with her (the reporter). Very convoluted, but unquestionably inappropriate for the workplace! He is gone now.
• Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes. It’s been established that Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo suppressed unflattering data that revealed the extent to which COVID-19 spread through his state’s nursing homes in the spring of 2020. This isn’t funny either; it also doesn’t have anything to do with Biden’s administration despite the best efforts of right-wing media outlets to suggest a connection.
• Major Biden. One of Joe Biden’s rescue dogs keeps biting people at the White House, getting sent out for training, returning to the White House, and getting sent out for more training after biting more people. Now Jill Biden says they’re also gonna get a cat! No! Don’t do it, Dr. Jill Biden!
• Disrespecting the Space Force. In early February, two Republican congressmen made outraged statements accusing White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki of being too glib in answering a question about the Trump-founded “Space Force” military branch during a briefing. Her attitude, the GOP members said, evinced a troubling indifference to the upper-atmospheric threat presented by China, a warning that proved all too prescient this week, when D.C. was destroyed by Chinese UFO lasers.
• Canceling Dr. Seuss. In early March, Biden issued a proclamation about Read Across America Day that broke from precedent by not specifically mentioning Dr. Seuss. This coincided with the decision by Dr. Seuss Enterprises to stop publishing six Seuss books, none of which were among his best-known, because they contain anachronistic, racist imagery. In the right wing’s telling, this became an attempt by Biden, and social-justice Democrats generally, to erase Dr. Seuss from history, to which some conservatives responded by making a show of ordering Seuss books, which, in addition to proving tangibly that Dr. Seuss’ work is still widely available, means many of them now own work that celebrates anti-materialist communitarianism, environmentalism, and the rewards of trying foreign food.
• Indoctrinating border children with Kamala Harris’ book. On April 24, the New York Post ran a cover story which reported that a 2019 children’s book published under Vice President Kamala Harris’ name was being included in “welcome kits” for unaccompanied immigrant minors at a shelter in Southern California. The entire basis for this claim was a photo of one of the books at the shelter, and it turns out it was a single copy that had been donated to a book and toy drive. Pretty bad job there, New York Post!
• If ground beef is outlawed, only outlaws will grind beef. Biden’s climate-related proposals are not going to require rationing red meat to the point that Americans can only eat one hamburger a month, as Fox News claimed while intentionally mangling an academic study that had already been intentionally mangled by the Daily Mail. In fact, they don’t mention red meat at all. This story, you might say, was just red meat for the easily angered right-wing base. Ha ha ha. Hahahahaha. How will the next 100 days ever top that? What a pickle! Get it? Like on a—OK.
Support Slate’s politics coverage
Slate is covering the stories that matter to you. Join Slate Plus to support our work. You’ll get unlimited articles and a suite of great benefits.