Halfway into his first 100 days, President Biden has yet to hold an in-person press conference with reporters, the longest wait for a president in 100 years.
Biden has gone longer without facing extended questions from reporters than any of his 15 predecessors over the past 100 years. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that Biden will hold a conference “in the coming weeks,” and before the end of March, but no official date has been set.
President Donald Trump held his first press conference 27 days after gaining office; President Barack Obama held one after just 20 days, and President George W. Bush held his first conference 33 days into his term. Bush was the previous record-holder until Biden’s presidency. Aside from that early engagement, his exchanges with the press have largely consisted of him briefly speaking with a small group of reporters who are brought into meetings.
The contrast with former President Donald Trump has been especially striking, especially given Biden’s repeated promises to Americans that he’d always be “straight” and “transparent.” While he has not held a solo press conference, Biden has held several in-person events such as executive order signings. Biden has participated in just one extended question-and-answer exchange with the press, for 21 minutes on his fourth full day in the job. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed March 1 that Biden will come to his first press conference with a list of reporters to call on. The press office had already been accused of screening questions to Psaki in February. “The president takes questions several times a week,” Psaki said Friday, explaining that he has not yet held a press conference because “his focus and his energy and his attention” has been on COVID-19 vaccines and relief [ABC].
Asked on Monday whether Biden would be taking “more extensive” post-briefing questions than he has so far faced during interviews, she said, “I don’t know.” Psaki pushed back against claims Biden was hiding from the press, touting the oft-used line that he had conducted “more than 40 Q&As” since he had become president. The Biden White House has come under fire for transparency issues in recent weeks, particularly after implementing a rule requiring news outlets to pay for coronavirus tests before entering the White House. The tests, which are required to report in the complex, can cost as much as $170 per person. The White House has agreed, however, to continue covering the cost of testing reporters in the daily press pool, which is on a monthly rotation of a few dozen outlets. Reporters who aren’t working on the pool for a given day would have to pay for testing before being given access [Daily Caller].
The lack of public encounters, along with Biden’s history of public gaffes and verbal stumbles, has led to an increase is people questioning his ability to handle the presidency. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 50% of Americans are questioning President Biden’s mental fitness, and over half are concerned about his lack of solo press conferences. Asked “how confident are you that Joe Biden is physically and mentally up to the job of being president of the United States,” 50% of respondents responded that they were “not confident.” 48% responded that they were “confident” or “very confident” about Biden’s physical and mental fitness. Additionally, 52% were worried about the fact he has not hosted a press conference alone since entering office. Over 40% said they were not concerned about that, however.
Donald Trump Jr. responded to the poll, saying there was “ZERO” chance only 50 percent of people had questioned Biden’s mental fitness, and that, instead, the figure represented the percentage willing to “say it out loud.” An event on Tuesday at a Washington DC hardware store added fuel to the fire for those critics who had been accusing Biden of dodging the press. The president visited W.S. Jenks & Son, which had received a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan in the past two weeks, but, even here, on what might be perceived as a good-news occasion, Biden refused to answer questions from the press [RT].
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: THE NEW YORK TIMES