Today is Joe Biden’s 47th full day as president, and he has yet to hold a solo press conference.
This is becoming a big deal in some circles.
Biden has made announcements, answered a few questions from reporters here and there at events, sat for several one-on-one interviews and did a CNN town hall. But no solo press conferences.
And the complaints are growing louder.
The Associated Press’ Zeke Miller, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, told AP reporters Jonathan Lemire and Alexandra Jaffe, “Press conferences are critical to informing the American people and holding an administration accountable to the public. As it has with prior presidents, the WHCA continues to call on President Biden to hold formal press conferences with regularity.”
In the past four decades, no president has gone this far into his administration without holding a formal Q&A session with the White House media.
The Washington Post editorial board wrote Sunday, “Avoiding news conferences must not become a regular habit for Mr. Biden. He is the president, and Americans have every right to expect that he will regularly submit himself to substantial questioning.”
Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple called a Biden press conference “long overdue.” Wemple also wrote, “The people who elected him might also appreciate seeing him defend his policies in the crucible of a formal press event. These are generally revealing affairs, big moments for which journalists hone their inquiries and their follow-ups.”
And, naturally, there are those like Fox News contributor Kayleigh McEnany who are throwing out baseless conspiracy theories like the White House is afraid to let Biden speak.
There’s enough going on, especially regarding COVID-19 (vaccinations, the stimulus package, mask restrictions, etc.) that it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for Biden to hold a press conference. It also might help set the tone for Biden’s relationship with the White House media. For the record, the White House claims Biden will hold a press conference by the end of March.
Speaking on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday, CNN’s Oliver Darcy said, “Reporters do have the responsibility to pressure this administration to be transparent.”
But is it fair to say Biden’s administration isn’t being transparent?
White House press secretary Jen Psaki is holding a press conference pretty much every weekday. She has had nearly 30 — and every single one has been more civil, more respectful and, best of all, more informative than any of the press conferences held by the likes of Trump White House press secretaries Kayleigh McEnany and Sarah Sanders. (Not that what happened during the Trump administration should be the bar for Biden and his staff.) And for all the hand wringing and head scratching about the lack of a Biden presser, it appears that Biden’s policies and plans are transparent and clear.
“But,” USA Today’s Matthew Brown wrote, “walking the public through his policy agenda, and then receiving feedback, is a process that also occurs through a presidential press conference.”
Still, it feels as if the complaints are simply on principle rather than the need for specific information. Many want Biden to talk just because, well, they want him to talk.
Although, as “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter said, “At the same time, it is a symbol of transparency and there are a lot of questions reporters do want to ask the new president. So it’s a legitimate story and question out there.”
This piece originally appeared in The Poynter Report, our daily newsletter for everyone who cares about the media. Subscribe to The Poynter Report here.