By:
April 30, 2021

Today is Joe Biden’s 100th full day as president of the United States.

So, I caught up with NBC News political director and “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd to get his impressions of Biden’s first 100 days in office. Here is our email exchange.

What has been the most significant storyline of Biden’s first 100 days in office?

The vaccinations. I think we may take for granted now how smooth this rollout looks in hindsight, but there were plenty of logistical hurdles that had folks nervous about how this rollout would go out. In fact, the first few weeks felt chaotic, especially as nervous seniors were fighting for hard-to-get doses. Looking back, the fact things got smoothed out as quickly as they did — and this became a relatively predictable process — is easily the most important accomplishment President Biden has had.

Biden has been very active in terms of policies and plans, but not very visible. Is this what you expected and how effective has that been for him? 

Given what we saw during the campaign and given what Biden, himself as a candidate, has learned over the last decade, I had a feeling this would be a “less is more” presidency. But I also think we should hold off on determining what his presidential visibility will really be for the remainder of this term. Let’s see if we see more of President Biden and more of him interacting with the press and the people once the COVID protocols are loosened. I do think the perception of him being less visible — for now — is more about COVID, but there’s only one way to know for sure. Let’s see how he interacts over the summer and fall.

What are people in Washington — from both sides of the aisle — telling you about Biden’s first 100 days?

Even Republicans admit he’s had a good first 100 days, though they argue that his early successes — passing COVID relief and supercharging vaccine distribution — were things any new president SHOULD have been focusing on. Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are pleasantly surprised at how big President Biden’s willing to go. Many rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers were preparing for the Joe Biden of the ’90s or even the Joe Biden of the Obama years, where they would want to pare back the ambition of the congressional Democrats. For the most part, he’s embraced most of their ambitious ideas. Sure, there are a few big things Biden’s punted on. For instance, I think Biden isn’t going to exert the same energy to get immigration reform passed as he is infrastructure and there’s a simple reason for that — one is more popular than the other. And that’s been the hallmark of Biden’s agenda so far, he’s tried to focus on the most popular big ideas that are out there.

What are you looking for over the next 100 days and what should Biden’s priorities be over the next 100 days?

The speed of action in the first 100 days will slow a bit as the knock-down, drag-out negotiations over these various infrastructure proposals kick in. I have a feeling it’s going to be a lot of fits and starts and even an occasional overreaction or two, i.e., declaring various things “dead;” only to see them resurrected. Bottom line: Biden is going to get a lot of what he’s asking for, but how he gets it and the process he has to go through to get it is what will dominate the next 100 days and it may not be pretty to watch.

My thanks to Chuck Todd. And now on to the rest of today’s newsletter ….

India’s heartbreak

Relatives of a patient who died of COVID-19 mourn outside a government COVID-19 hospital in Ahmedabad, India. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)

The scenes coming out of India are just horrific as COVID-19 ravages that country. World records in daily cases and daily deaths are being set almost every day in India. Another record was set Thursday with 379,257 new infections and 3,645 new deaths. Reuters had this chilling headline online Thursday: “India’s coronavirus infections cross 18 million as gravediggers work round the clock.”

So what happened? How did this all spiral out of control in India?

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta was asked those exact questions on air Friday. He said, “They were declaring this to be the endgame a month ago. They thought they were out of this. There’s a significant impact because of this. People started letting their guard down. They had these gigantic gatherings of people together without masks on as part of these political rallies. This is a country of 1.4 billion people — very high population density. So you start to mix in all these factors and that’s a prescription for a real problem.”

The problem is what is happening right now. Yes, Gupta said, vaccines there will help eventually. But he compared the current situation in India to that of a patient who is “acute distress — they’re in the ICU.”

As of April 28, only 1.81% of India’s population had been fully vaccinated. That led Gupta to say, “We’re going to be talking about this for weeks.”

Also, be sure to check out Arundhati Roy’s remarkable story in The Guardian, with the subhead, “It’s hard to convey the full depth and range of the trauma, the chaos and the indignity that people are being subjected to. Meanwhile, (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and his allies are telling us not to complain.”

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An angry response

Earlier this week, my Poynter colleague Angela Fu wrote about how a study by the NewsGuild Gannett caucus found the median salaries of women and people of color at 14 unionized Gannett newsrooms was at least $5,000 less than those of their male and a white colleagues. At the time, a Gannett spokesperson disagreed with the NewsGuild’s findings, saying they were “misleading” and relied on “outdated data.”

In a series of tweets put out by the Twitter account of “USA Today Network PR,” Gannett responded to the NewsGuild, announcing they would not meet with the NewsGuild on Thursday as originally planned. The letter — signed by Thomas C. Zipfel, the Labor Relations Counsel for Gannett — said, in part, “it has become apparent that the study is not a good faith effort to engage in a constructive dialogue on an important topic — pay equity.” It then went on to argue against some of the NewsGuild’s findings.

Are the numbers in the NewsGuild study accurate? Is there a pay discrepancy among its employees? I, obviously, have no way of knowing. But I will say that the tweet sent out by the USA Today Network PR account on Thursday could have been better worded. It read:

“.@Gannett issued a response to @newsguild and their misinformation campaign re: the ‘study’ of 14 out of our 250+ newsrooms. We address the facts that were not disclosed. Gannett is on a journey. We’ve been transparent about our goals. #facts”

Exchanges between management and unions can always get a little testy, but a couple of thoughts here. First, is it wise to use the phrase “misinformation campaign?” This study was partly put together by journalists at Gannett. For the company to say its own journalists are capable of orchestrating a “misinformation campaign” doesn’t seem like the best strategy. And then to end it with “#facts” also seems in poor form. Again, it’s a response to journalists, whom you are asking readers to trust otherwise.

A future VP?

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez speaking at the White House in February (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is the guest on the latest episode of Kara Swisher’s “Sway” podcast for The New York Times. Swisher pointed out that Suarez recently met with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who could be a Republican candidate for president in 2024.

When asked if he would make a good vice president, Suarez said, “Sure, why not?”

He went on to say, “Well, being a mayor of a big city is an incredibly dynamic and challenging executive role. I’m young, energetic. And I think Miami is a good representation of what the country is and will be. … Because we’re incredibly diverse. We’re a city of immigrants. And we are a place where, I think, in the future, people will congregate to create not just yesterday’s companies, but tomorrow’s companies. So I think it’s a bastion of what the future will look like.”

Fox News’ moves

Fox News announced a few executive moves on Thursday. You can check out some of the moves in its press release. But one move did stand out. Kerri Kupec was named Washington editor and, according to the Fox News release, she “will participate in story selection” under Doug Rohrbeck, the new senior vice president of D.C. News.

The move stands out because Kupec does not appear to have any journalism experience other than appearing on Fox News occasionally. She is, however, the former director of public affairs and counselor to former Attorney General William Barr where she served as chief spokesperson for the Department of Justice. Her background is in communications. (Hat tip to Washington Post reporter Jeremy Barr for first making mention of this in a tweet.)

Speaking of Barr, he also linked back to a story he wrote for The Hollywood Reporter after CNN did something similar in 2019. It named Sarah Isgur its political editor even though her background was being former spokesperson for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Isgur never served as political editor and instead joined the network as a political analyst. Isgur now works at The Dispatch.

To be clear, maybe Kupec will be outstanding in her role, and it’s certainly Fox News’ right to hire whoever they want. But her position seems more suited for someone with lots of experience at a news organization.

Media tidbits

  • Politico’s Jack Shafer is the latest to weigh in on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson with “Has Tucker Deposed Trump as the Troller in Chief?”
  • The New York Times announced a couple of significant moves on Thursday. Patrick Healy was named deputy editor of Opinion. A 16-year veteran of the Times, Healy has been the Politics editor for the past three years. He worked at The Boston Globe before that. Meanwhile, Jon Galinsky, who leads the Newsroom Strategy and Finance groups, has been promoted to associate managing editor.
  • Rachel Scott, Congressional correspondent for ABC News, will be guest moderator for tonight’s “Washington Week” (8 p.m. Eastern on most PBS stations). Panelists will include Geoff Bennett (NBC News), Lisa Desjardins (PBS NewsHour), Jonathan Martin (The New York Times), and Ashley Parker (The Washington Post). The show’s focus will be on President Biden’s address to Congress and his 100 days in office.
  • Good stuff in the latest piece by New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand: “What Dan Le Batard’s $50M DraftKings deal means for sports media’s future.”
  • It was fun watching social media go crazy with the report that superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers was unhappy with his team, the Green Bay Packers, and wasn’t sure he wanted to return there next season. And, of course, the report came from a tweet sent by ESPN NFL reporter Adam Schefter. Within 30 minutes of the tweet, it had already been liked 62,000 times and retweeted more than 13,000 times. Does anyone break more NFL stories than Schefter?

Hot type

Have feedback or a tip? Email Poynter senior media writer Tom Jones at tjones@poynter.org.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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