For the second year in a row, Joe Biden is declining the opportunity to appear for a 15-minute interview during halftime of the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 11.
In 2023, 115 million people watched the Super Bowl over the air and online, making it the most-watched TV broadcast in U.S. history. But Biden didn’t like the idea of being interviewed by a Fox News correspondent and refused to make an appearance.
This year, it’s CBS that is broadcasting the game. But with the border crisis, the war in Gaza, and his unpopularity, his handlers decided that even an interview with a friendly media outlet was too much of a political risk. In Biden’s diminished mental state, he might make a campaign-ending gaffe.
I’ve been watching presidential campaigns for 52 years and I’ve never seen a campaign so tightly controlled and media-managed. What makes it even worse is the media’s cooperation and acceptance of being pushed around like little children and manipulated by Biden’s PR handlers. Even Barack Obama couldn’t exert the kind of control Biden is wielding over the networks.
“We hope viewers enjoy watching what they tuned in for — the game,” said Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman.
With 60 to 80 million eyeballs glued to the screen in any given segment during the broadcast for a 15-minute campaign commercial, Biden’s handlers must be terrified of what might come out of the president’s mouth if he went on TV.
But the decision may be seen as an intriguing one, particularly as candidates ramp up for the 2024 presidential election. Viewers might have been interested in hearing President Biden talk about recent U.S. strikes on Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq in response to the killing of three American soldiers in Jordan; his views on the Republican candidates, including former President Donald Trump; or even whether he hoped for a win by the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers.
In 2018, Donald Trump refused the opportunity to sit down with NBC’s Lester Holt during Super Bowl halftime. Holt was a particularly arrogant and biased reporter with the most biased news network in the country. Trump believed that the interview would do him no good politically and declined to make himself a target for Holt’s “gotcha” questions.
A pre-game Super Bowl interview with the president had become a de rigueur element of the Super Bowl broadcast conditions since President Barack Obama started doing it in 2009. President Obama did live interviews with everyone from CBS’ Pelley and Gayle King to NBC’s Matt Lauer to Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly. The original Super Bowl talk with a sitting U.S. president was decidedly less formal. President George W. Bush, for example, took part in a Super Bowl coin toss in 2002 and bantered with Jim Nantz of CBS Sports before the network’s 2004 broadcast of the event.
It used to be a president would be judged insane to turn down an interview with 100 million people watching and with a residual audience of tens of millions. It makes me think that Biden is fading fast and his handlers are going to have a hard time hiding the decline until election day.