News and Commentary

‘I’m Told I Should Start With AP,’ Biden Says During Rome Press Conference
Joe Biden, President of the United States of America, waits for questions in a press conference during the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. (Photo by
Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images

President Joe Biden, who was elected nearly a year ago, hasn’t done a lot of press conferences, but when he does, he nearly always reveals that he has a list of preferred reporters on whom to call for queries.

During his only presser in Rome after the G20 summit on Sunday, Biden appeared to once again be using a “cheat sheet.”

“And now I’m happy to take some questions. And I’m told I should start with AP, Zeke Miller,” he said, according to a video posted by Fox News. “Zeke, you have a question?”

While the U.S. president often starts with the wire services first, past presidents have never announced that they were “told” to call on the AP first.

After the Q&A, Biden said, “Next question was from Jeff Mason — for Jeff Mason of Reuters.”

Biden then went to reporters from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and ABC News before running out the clock with a lengthy, rambling answer to the last question. The press conference ran just 26 minutes — pressers with former President Donald Trump would often run up to 90 minutes and more.

The president, who turns 79 this month, often divulges that he has been instructed to call on certain reporters, as he did after a June summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland.

“I’ll take your questions, and as usual, folks, they gave me a list of the people I’m going to call on,” Biden told reporters at the time. In April, he implied that he’s really not in charge of his own time. “This is the last question I’ll take, and I’m really gonna be in trouble,” he said.

Biden has also been photographed holding a chart with the names — and even the faces — of reporters, along with a number to signify in which order he should call on them.

In August, amid a disastrous pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan — which resulted in the deaths of 13 American service members and left hundreds of U.S. citizens stranded in the country — Biden dodged the media for days before addressing the nation. At the end of his speech, he said: “Ladies and gentlemen, they gave me a list here,” Biden said. “The first person I was instructed to call on [is] Kelly O’Donnell of NBC.”

Other times Biden simply refuses to take questions. After Biden held a brief event in August to update the nation on incoming Hurricane Ida, reporters did what reporters do: Shout questions.

“I’m not supposed to take any questions, but go ahead,” he said. Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Jacobs tried anyway. “Mr. President, on Afghanistan–” she began before he cut her off.

“I’m not going to answer Afghanistan now,” Biden said.

Biden also calls often on supportive media, including The Associated Press, The Washington Post, NBC News, Reuters, and Bloomberg News.

When Fox News in January asked about the president’s preference for friendly media, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said: “In an effort to make sure we are rotating through reporters in the pool, the president took questions from wire reporters, one print outlet and a few network correspondents today and will look forward to taking additional questions again soon.”

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