President Joe Biden held an off-the-record conversation with journalists in which he mainly complained about their coverage, according to a new report.
On a recent Air Force One trip, Biden dropped back into the media seating area to “criticize the quality and tenor of press coverage of his administration,” Politico’s West Wing Playbook reported Wednesday.
“Joe Biden doesn’t do many off-the-record chats with reporters. So the traveling White House press corps was surprised and intrigued when the president dropped by Air Force One’s press section for one such session with them during a recent trip to the West Coast,” the left-leaning website reported. “But Biden wasn’t just there to field questions. He had his own message to deliver. According to multiple people familiar with the off-the-record session, he used much of his time with reporters to criticize the quality and tenor of press coverage of his administration.”
The sessions present a conundrum for reporters. On Air Force One flights, there is only a single reporter from print media whose job is to report back to other reporters not on the president’s plane exactly what went on. But an off-the-record session is never shared with those other reporters with the dual thought that, first, they may one day be fortunate enough to be in such a session and, second, because the president cannot speak candidly off-the-record if what he says is widely reported.
But still, along with the print reporter, there are upwards of a dozen media members in such sessions, including TV, radio, and wire service reporters, as well as half a dozen photographers. It’s not unusual for what the president said aboard Air Force One to leak out and make its way into the press. In fact, reporters who attend the off-the-record sessions will often relay the conversations to those who didn’t, with the caveat that the president’s comments remain off the record. That doesn’t always happen.
Biden hasn’t done a sit down with a media outlet in 119 days. Instead, the president did a softball interview with late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel on Wednesday.
Politico reported Biden “hasn’t done a sit-down interview with The New York Times’ or Washington Post’s non-opinion sections since taking office, a departure from his former boss Barack Obama, who regularly gave one-on-ones to the Times during his first year. Biden has similarly shut out major wire services like The Associated Press and Reuters. Though he’s given a handful of interviews to the major networks, he still hasn’t conducted a one-on-one with CNN (though he’s done several town hall appearances).”
“I can’t think of a parallel situation – it’s the fifth president I’ve covered and the first one I haven’t interviewed,” Peter Baker, The Times’ chief White House correspondent, told the outlet. “They feel neither the obligation nor the opportunity.”
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.