As President Joe Biden nears the end of his first year in office, one trend is very, very clear: He is doing far fewer news conferences or sit-down interviews with the media than any of his recent predecessors.
According to the American Presidency Project at the University of California – Santa Barbara, Biden has conducted only nine total news conferences to date in his first year.
That’s fewer than half the number done by Donald Trump (22) in 2017 and a third as many as Barack Obama held (27) in his first year in office.
And it’s not just news conferences where Biden is lagging his predecessors when it comes to interacting with the press. Biden had done just 22 press interviews through December 31 of his first year in office, a total dwarfed by the 92 interviews Trump had done and the 156(!) Obama participated in during their first years as president.
(Those numbers come courtesy of Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project. Check out her full paper on the subject here.)
The one measure where Biden has outpaced the men who came before him is in informal question and answer sessions – of which he has done 216 compared with 120 for Trump and just 46 for Obama.
Some of these discrepancies are explained away by quirks of each president. Trump liked to do news conferences with a foreign leader in tow (the lion’s share of his news conferences in his first year were of the joint nature) while Obama felt at ease conducting sit-down conversations with reporters.
Biden is less quick on his feet but also less formal, meaning that it’s not all that surprising that he prefers impromptu question-and-answer situations with reporters as opposed to scheduled press appearances. That is also a remnant of the decades he spent on Capitol Hill, where most interactions with reporters are both informal and quick.
With all that said, it’s clear that in terms of overall availability to the media – particularly in more formal settings – Biden is lagging far behind the last two men to hold the presidency.
Asked back in March 2021 about Biden’s relative lack of engagement with the media, White House press secretary Jen Psaki cited the fact that he “came in during a historic crisis — two historic crises, a pandemic like the country had not seen in decades and decades and an economic downturn that left 10 million people out of work.”
In November, Psaki disputed the very notion that Biden was less available to the media than past presidents. “It’s just not accurate to suggest that he isn’t accessible or doesn’t answer questions,” she said.
The Point: The numbers don’t lie. Biden doesn’t ignore the media but he interacts less with the Fourth Estate than either of his two most recent predecessors.