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Trump has given the interviews Biden has so far five times

WASHINGTON – President Biden has given one-fifth as many interviews as Donald Trump, one-eighth to Barack Obama and half as many as a near-murdered Ronald Reagan has at this point in their presidency, data shared with The Post reveal as reporters rant about limited access.

Biden’s town hall Thursday night on CNN will take him to 16 interviews in total – down from 82 by Trump, 131 by Obama and 32 by Reagan, according to data compiled by presidential historian Martha Kumar.

The lack of interviews comes amid falling Biden approval numbers following the chaotic withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic – as inflation and a Supply chain crisis is hammering average Americans and Biden’s legislative agenda stalls.

“The staff are going way too far to ‘protect’ him. Which begs the question of “What’s wrong with him?” Why can’t he do interviews? said Ari Fleischer, President George W. Bush’s White House press secretary from 2001 to 2003.

“I think the pandemic has nothing to do with it,” Fleischer said. “That’s what they did during the campaign. So they think it worked once and it will work twice.

Fleischer said he thinks Biden is capable of doing interviews, but “it’s questionable if staff think he’s in worse shape than he suggests” and that “too much protection is lifting no more questions, especially for a president about to turn 79 ”.

Former President Donald Trump had given only one solo press conference at the White House in late September during his first year.
Fox News

The number of first year interviews varies considerably. Reagan’s 32 talks from October 21, 1981 was the lowest tally of recent presidencies – but Reagan went almost a month without one as he recovered from a gunshot that punctured a lung, broke a rib and caused internal bleeding.

George W. Bush conducted 42 interviews during this period, many of them round tables with groups of journalists. Bill Clinton has given 51 interviews so far and George HW Bush has done 38.

Sean Spicer, Trump’s first publicist, said Biden staff “wanted a scripted presidency” to minimize the risk of blunders or other distracting comments.

“They want to minimize the opportunities for him to get off the script. And they want as little perspective as possible, ”said Spicer, now television host for Newsmax.

The president’s low availability for one-on-one meetings has been noted among the press, which are also angry at restrictions on access to East Room events which sometimes feature questions and answers.

Barack Obama interviews Bill Maher
Former President Barack Obama gave 131 interviews while in the same stage of his first term as Biden.

White House Correspondents Association chairman Steven Portnoy urged Biden on limited access to the East Room in July during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He then asked press secretary Jen Psaki about the remarkably rare opportunities to interview Biden.

“In this month of September, most of the opportunities we have had [to ask questions of Biden] were fleeting. In fact, there are occasions when he only answered one question and walked away, and most of those occasions happened outside of this building, ”Portnoy said on September 22.

“So when can we expect to have the opportunity to ask the President questions in a formal setting?” He asked Psaki during a press briefing.

Psaki told Portnoy, who reports for CBS News Radio, “I don’t know if the format, whether it’s multiple shorter Q&A or a longer formal press conference, is ahead of the curve. list of concerns of the American public. “

On Thursday, veteran journalist Brian Karem asked Psaki’s assistant Karine Jean-Pierre if Biden would hold a press conference open to all press. Biden did four solo press conferences, but only one was in the White House and there was a severe attendance cap.

Interview with Ronald Reagan
Former President Ronald Reagan went almost a month without an interview as he recovered from a gunshot.

“He asks questions all the time – all the time,” said Jean-Pierre, repeating a vague and oft-used White House response to this question.

Like Biden, Trump had given just one solo press conference in the White House at the end of September of his freshman year, according to Kumar data, up from five by Obama, three by George W. Bush, seven by Clinton, 13 by George HW Bush and three. by Reagan.

Often times, cable news channels don’t broadcast Biden’s generally sober and dry answers to shorter Q&A in the Oval Office or on the White House lawn – and Biden actually answered more questions during brief exchanges with journalists than it seems.

Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project and professor emeritus at Towson University, recently released a report indicating that by the end of September, Biden had answered at least one question from a reporter 54% of the days, counting on weekends – although there has been a downward trend.

Kumar wrote that Biden “answered questions more often at his events than his predecessors, [but] he spends less time doing it. For example, these may exchange a single response, such as asserting confidence in Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley after reporting on his behind-the-scenes calls with the Chinese military.

President Joe Biden participates in a town hall style interview at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States on July 21, 2021
President Joe Biden participates in a town hall-style interview at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 21, 2021.
REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst

In contrast, Trump’s interactions with reporters have generally been long. Gaggles on the White House lawn could contain a dozen or more questions from a diverse group of reporters gathered and scrambling for attention – sometimes resulting in reporters being shoved into bushes or smashed in the head with large cameras.

Biden’s 16 interviews during his tenure were largely given to TV stations, but include an appearance with makeup artist Manny Mua for a YouTube special on COVID-19.

ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos scored two interviews with Biden and CNN’s Anderson Cooper also received two, according to tapes posted online by FiscalNote’s, which publishes presidential interview transcripts.

One of Biden’s interviews was an impromptu Q&A on Jan. 25 with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins in a west wing hallway – an exchange archivists included in the tally, despite its novelty. Biden’s 16 interviews are also included in a traditional off-recording rally in April with TV presenters.

ESPN’s Sage Steele, CNN’s Don Lemon, NBC’s Craig Melvin, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and Univision’s Ilia Calderon also interviewed Biden – as did People magazine, The Altantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere and columnist David. Brooks of the New York Times.

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