President Joe Biden has promised to lead the most transparent administration in the country’s history, but that does not appear to include formal and direct contacts with the army of reporters assigned to cover the White House. As Biden approaches his first anniversary in the White House, figures show that he has held fewer press conferences than any of his five predecessors at this point in his presidencies. He has also participated in far fewer formal and sit-down interviews with journalists, the Associated Press reports.
The 46th president conducted just 22 media interviews as of the end of last year, which is fewer than his six most recent predecessors. And during that time, he has held just nine formal press conferences, three of which were held in conjunction with visiting foreign leaders. By contrast, Donald Trump held 22 press conferences and 92 interviews in his first year. Only Ronald Reagan held fewer press conferences at this point in his presidency, according to research by Martha Joynt Kumar, emeritus professor of political science at Towson University and director of the White House Transition Project. And that’s considering that Reagan’s schedule was drastically cut in his freshman year as he recovered from a failed assassination attempt. Even with that limitation, Reagan conducted 59 interviews in 1981, more than double the number of interviews Biden sat through last year.
Although his formal contact with the media may be scant, that does not mean that Biden does not connect with the journalists who follow him. He often stops to speak to reporters at public appearances. They yell questions and sometimes he chooses to answer them. In all, Biden had 216 such informal media contacts last year, more than any of his predecessors since Bill Clinton, who had 245, according to Kumar’s figures. But these kinds of informal question-and-answer sessions have clear limitations considering that Biden can simply ignore any question he doesn’t want to answer. And when you choose to participate, the responses are usually short and there is no real space for anyone to follow up. “The fleeting exchanges are insufficient to build a historical record of the president’s views on a wide range of public concerns,” said Steven Portnoy, president of the White House Correspondents Association and a reporter for CBS New Radio.