The Slatest

Biden Gives Fewer News Conferences, Interviews Than Any Other Recent President

President Joe Biden takes questions from reporters as he speaks about the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the State Dining Room of the White House, December 21, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden takes questions from reporters as he speaks about the omicron variant of the coronavirus in the State Dining Room of the White House, December 21, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Joe Biden has vowed to run the most transparent administration in the country’s history but that doesn’t seem to include direct, formal contacts with the army of reporters assigned to cover the White House. As Biden gets close to his first-year anniversary in the White House, the numbers show he has held fewer news conferences than any of his five predecessors at this point in their presidencies. He has also participated in far fewer formal, sit-down interviews with journalists, reports the Associated Press.

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The 46th president carried out only 22 media interviews through the end of last year, which is fewer than his six most recent predecessors. And during the time, he has held a mere nine formal news conferences, three of which were held alongside visiting foreign leaders. In contrast, Donald Trump held 22 news conferences and 92 interviews in his first year. Only Ronald Reagan held fewer news conferences at this point in his presidency, according to research by Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor emerita in political science at Towson University and director of the White House Transition Project. And that’s taking into account that Reagan’s schedule was severely cut back in his first year as he recovered from a failed assassination attempt. Even with that limitation, Reagan carried out 59 interviews in 1981, more than double the number of interviews Biden sat down for last year.

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Although his formal contact with the media may be sparse, that doesn’t mean Biden doesn’t connect with the journalists who follow him around. He does often stop to talk to reporters at public appearances. They shout questions and he sometimes chooses to answer them. In all, Biden held 216 of these types of informal contacts with the media last year, more than any of his predecessors since Bill Clinton, who held 245, according to Kumar’s numbers. But these types of informal Q&A sessions have clear limitations considering Biden can simply ignore any question he doesn’t want to answer. And when he does choose to engage, the answers are often short and there’s no real space for anyone to follow up. “Fleeting exchanges are insufficient to building the historical record of the president’s views on a broad array of public concerns,” said Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and a reporter for CBS New Radio.

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