White House briefings in the Biden years are often sleepy meetings compared to the Jim Acosta shriek-fests we remember under Trump. President Joe Biden pledged he would be so much nicer to the press corps. He promised to “bring transparency and truth back to the government.” But the press is much nicer to him than the other way around.
Biden provides far less access than Trump did. He avoids press conferences and one-on-one interviews like the plague. He only surfaces for softball interviews with Nicolle Wallace or Drew Barrymore — and you could be forgiven if you’re not sure which interviewer was tougher, the cable “news” host or the movie star from “50 First Dates.”
Many Americans who are deeply skeptical of the White House press corps were briefly pleased when the story broke that Hunter Biden threatened his Chinese clients in a text chat by saying his father was in the room with him. At the June 23 press briefing, CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, CBS’s Weijia Jiang and Peter Baker of The New York Times all questioned White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about Hunter Biden, and all of them were stiffed. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby actually walked out of the briefing when James Rosen of Newsmax posed the first Hunter question.
This pattern of scandal stiff-arming is relentless. Bill D’Agostino of the Media Research Center looked at every White House briefing between Jan. 1 and June 30, and found 252 questions about Joe Biden’s scandals, mostly about his mishandling of classified documents but a few about Hunter’s lobbying operations. Only six of the 252 questions were concretely answered and not dodged.
The trend continues. On July 5, Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal stated: “There was a story in The New York Times over the weekend about Hunter Biden’s daughter in Arkansas. Does the president acknowledge this little girl as his granddaughter?”
Jean-Pierre dismissed it: “I don’t have anything to share from here.”
These I-know-nothing (or I-share-nothing) answers do not routinely draw Acosta-style outrage in the briefing room or on the evening newscasts. On the Jan. 23 “PBS NewsHour,” co-host Geoff Bennett raised Biden’s classified-documents scandal and played this Jean-Pierre clip: “The American people heard from the president directly on this when he was asked by your colleagues at least twice now about how he sees this process. And he was very clear with the response of what we’re currently seeing. And he says: I take this very seriously. He said: I didn’t know that the documents were there.”
Bennett then followed up: “The president has said that he did nothing wrong and that, in his words, there is no ‘there’ there.”
By contrast, one exception came on June 13. Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich asked about the prospects of a Ukrainian business executive having audio recordings of his chats with Hunter and Joe Biden. Jean-Pierre tried to kill the story: “So the President spoke to this. I think he was shouted a question about this at the Thursday press conference. I’m just going to quote him and say, ‘It’s malarkey.'” No recordings have surfaced, to the delight of Biden and the pro-Biden reporters.
It’s common for press secretaries to defer tough questions to other departments or agencies, but Jean-Pierre is accomplishing some kind of Olympic-level record of blowing off questions. While many question her competence at the podium, her denials are clearly doing exactly what Team Biden wants — to bluster past the scandal questions without answering them. They’d like to pretend there’s no such thing as a Biden scandal.
Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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