NewsBusters Podcast: Biden Laughs at the New York Times Interview Request

President Biden and his team have been very reluctant to hold press conferences or grant interviews. He’s much less accessible than other recent presidents. For the most part, the press doesn’t care. But The New York Times put out a statement shortly before the White House Correspondents Dinner protesting how it was troubling that Biden has “so actively and effectively avoided questions from independent journalists during his term.”

What happened next? At the White House Correspondents Dinner, Biden JOKED about it, even suggesting The New York Times was inferior to the Howard Stern show in its influence. Mr. Butt Bongo Fiesta was a better forum. Journalists laughed along, underlining they have next to zero professional self-respect. 

Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple posted has a new piece on Friday headlined “The New York Times, alone in its outrage over access to Biden.” He noted the Times laid it all out for Biden: 

For anyone who understands the role of the free press in a democracy, it should be troubling that President Biden has so actively and effectively avoided questions from independent journalists during his term. The president occupies the most important office in our nation, and the press plays a vital role in providing insights into his thinking and worldview, allowing the public to assess his record and hold him to account.

Mr. Biden has granted far fewer press conferences and sit-down interviews with independent journalists than virtually all of his predecessors. It is true that The Times has sought an on-the-record interview with Mr. Biden, as it has done with all presidents going back more than a century. If the president chooses not to sit down with The Times because he dislikes our independent coverage, that is his right, and we will continue to cover him fully and fairly either way.

However, in meetings with Vice President Harris and other administration officials, the publisher of The Times focused instead on a higher principle: That systematically avoiding interviews and questions from major news organizations doesn’t just undermine an important norm, it also establishes a dangerous precedent that future presidents can use to avoid scrutiny and accountability.

Times Publisher Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, according to the Times statement, has “repeatedly urged the White House to have the president sit down with The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CNN and other major independent news organizations that millions of Americans rely on to understand their government.”

It’s not like Trump will act like Biden in a second term. As Wemple shows, with numbers from Martha Joynt Kumar, Trump had about three times as many pressers at this point in his presidency than Biden – 97 to 34. Same with interviews – 327 to 118. Trump will take on hostile interviews. Biden’s talking to Stern, Drew Barrymore, and Ryan Seacrest. 

Wemple wanted to point out the Times is standing alone with its outrage, without supporting words from other news organizations contending with Biden’s hard-to-get status. “I think this is a norm that matters,” said Sulzberger in a Tuesday interview with Wemple. “And all our experience shows that when norms like this erode, especially a norm as uncomfortable as the discipline of answering probing questions from independent journalists, they rarely return.”

Wemple said he asked The Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today — as well as TV outlets that have interviewed the president (ABC News, NBC News/MSNBC, CBS News and CNN) — whether the situation merited a public statement along the lines of the Times’s. “Not a single outlet responded with an endorsement of the Times’s message,” including Fox News. They’re all holding out hope for an interview — which can draw ratings. 

Enjoy the podcast below — or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

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