President Joe Biden is underperforming his predecessors when it comes to giving one-on-one press interviews – and some of his allies and supporters are concerned the media strategy may hurt him in the long run.
Biden has only given a dozen one-on-one interviews with major news outlets during his nine months in office, according to the New York Times. That is much less than former presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama, who gave 50 and 100, respectively, in the same amount of time.
With historically low approval ratings and Democrats being throttled in the November elections, Biden supporters said the president needs to use his pulpit to endear his administration, party and policies to the public.
“What I believe in is sell, sell, sell,” Democratic strategist James Carville said in an interview. “What they’re missing is salesmanship. Everybody wants to be a policy maven, and no one wants to go door to door and sell pots and pans.”
Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York agrees that Biden is underperforming with the press. He said Biden’s White House is “not getting the job done on messaging.” Maloney also said, “Free Joe Biden” and encouraged the president “to get himself out there.”
Democratic Party Adviser Kurt Bardella said Biden’s failure to grant interviews is giving Republicans a chance to preemptively frame the narrative about his policies.
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“The first impression of these packages was framed already by the Republicans,” Bardella said. “Now that we see more activity from the White House, they’re coming up against a narrative that was painted by other people, and it becomes a little bit more challenging to stem that tide.”
According to NYT, Biden has yet to grant one-on-one interviews to many notable outlets including “The Associated Press, The New York Times, Reuters, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal or USA Today. Even friendly venues like ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.’”
Some experts believe Biden may be limiting interviews to avoid making gaffes that he has become known for, which could hurt him.
“There are risks, and certainly Biden has a history of sometimes going off-script and off-the-cuff, and message discipline is really critical at a time like this,” said Scott McClellan, former press secretary to George W. Bush. “But those high-profile interviews give you the opportunity to really get across key points that you want to make, that are important in building public support.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki rejected the notion that Biden is limiting contact with the media. “Taking 30 questions from the national press in a week, or over the course of 10 days or two weeks, is an opportunity for the national press corps to ask him tough questions and do follow-ups,” Psaki told the Times. “He fully expects it and he engages in it.”
Bardella said it’s not enough. “Every network would give him time if he asked for it,” Bardella said. “He needs to use the trappings of the presidency.”