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Mr. President, What In the World Was that Press Conference?

President Joe Biden talks to members of the press in the State Dining Room of the White House Tuesday, March 2, 2021, after delivering remarks during a COVID-19 announcement. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

Yesterday, President Biden held his first formal White House press conference since becoming the president over two months ago. The press conference lasted over an hour with journalists asking questions about the filibuster, international relations with North Korea and China, and the illegal immigration crisis on the US-Mexico border. Additionally, Biden expressed his intention to run for reelection in 2024 and his intention to keep Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Back on March 12th in his address to the nation, I criticized the president for talking about the truth while refusing to hold a single formal press conference. I said, “The James S. Brady Press Briefing Room, where reporters directly ask the White House questions, is the belly of the beast. It is where a presidential administration’s incompetence is exposed, its motives questioned, its representatives berated, and its flaws highlighted. If Biden is unwilling to enter that beast, to open the window of transparency, then he cannot speak about the “truth.”

Earlier, on March 2, a spokesperson for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services, said, “Reporters will not be allowed inside the Carrizo Springs facility for unaccompanied minors that was recently opened under the Biden administration in Texas,” said the spokesperson. “The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is not hosting media tours of unaccompanied children (UC) facilities currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

At the time, I thought this reasoning was not well substantiated because the detainees were reportedly less than six feet apart.

Later, according to ABC News, the Biden Administration allowed reporters to enter the migrant facilities this past Wednesday, but the reporters were still unable to speak with minors within the facilities.

All of this, the prior refusal to do a press conference and the barring of reporters into facilities on the US-Mexico border, have made the Biden administration dangerously concealed and underreported.

All this occurred in the days leading up to Biden’s first press conference, a theatrically staged speech that rebuked journalism.

Usually, if anyone were to watch any random press conference from the past three presidents, you would see journalists impatiently waiting for the person giving the conference to finish their answer, interrupting the president, and throwing a barrage of questions at the president.

One of the basic tenets of American media is that numerous outlets profit greatly off of controversy and political attacks, which results in White House correspondents for various newspapers asking incredibly difficult questions that have virtually no straightforward answer. The journalists in the press room are supposed to be stubbornly persistent with their questions.

That didn’t happen yesterday.

What the nation witnessed yesterday was a president calling on very specific reporters asking very specific questions, which were answered in the vaguest possible fashion. Specifically, Biden refused to call on news outlets that would have asked tougher questions. According to the Daily Wire, Biden refused to call on Fox News reporter Peter Doocy and instead referred to a prepared list to call on left-leaning publications.

What was even more concerning was the type of questions asked by the journalists and the answers Biden gave them. One of the questions asked of Biden was if he was going to run for reelection again in 2024 and if he will keep Harris as a running mate. The election is in more than three years; his reelection bid is irrelevant right now since he was just inaugurated.

The one question that I believed was really good was a question asking about Biden’s immigration crisis on the US-Mexico border. Cecilia Vega from ABC News asked, “What is your reaction to these images that have come out from that particular facility? Is what’s happening inside acceptable to you? And when is this going to be fixed?”

It was a good tough question that brings light to a pressing domestic issue that has impacted at least hundreds of Americans thus far.

What was even more concerning was the president’s answers.

Biden’s answer to the previous question did not really answer the question. He implied was that the pictures are not acceptable and then provided vague solutions, “find additional access for children to be able to safely.” He needs to be absolutely clear as to what he means by additional access and how he will get “children to be able to safely.”

Along with unaddressed vagaries were his multiple overt lies in his answers. When asked about the immigration crisis, he said, “We’re sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming.”

This is objectively not true; Axios reported 13% of families are being sent back.

Biden said, “Truth of the matter is, nothing has changed. As many people came — 28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration; 31 percent in the last year in 2019, before the pandemic — in the Trump administration. It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year.”

This is not true. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, authorities at the border came into contact with 9,457 children without a parent in February alone, marking a 61 percent increase from January. Overall, border officials say the U.S. will take in more than 17,000 minors this month alone.

Biden said, “The idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side, no previous administrations did either, except Trump.” Again, this is not true as that there are no documented deaths by starvation.

When it came to foreign policy, Fox News Host Chris Wallace criticized Biden’s reliance on talking points, “I was also struck by the fact that it seemed on every foreign policy question, not the others, but on foreign policy he went to his briefing book like Jen Psaki does and was reading obviously White House guidance, White House talking points,” Wallace said. “Covering Ronald Reagan for six years I never saw that. Watching a lot of news conferences over a lot of years, I’ve never seen that … a president in a news conference reading talking points.”

Another time Biden faltered is when he called the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic.” His striking condemnation of the filibuster comes during a Senate Democratic push to remove the filibuster. Biden calling it a Jim Crow relic is odd, considering the president used the filibuster numerous times in his near four-decade time as a Delaware Senator.

According to US News, “During his years in the Senate, Biden could be counted on to routinely join Democratic efforts to support filibusters of Republican programs–from the second President Bush’s energy bill to the first President Bush’s effort to cut the tax on capital gains in order to stimulate the U.S. economy and blunt the impact of the early-’90s recession.”

Additionally, in 2005, Biden said, “At its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill, it’s about compromise and moderation. The nuclear option extinguishes the power of independents and moderates in the Senate. That’s it, they’re done. Moderates are important if you need to get to 60 votes to satisfy cloture; they are much less so if you only need 50 votes. Let’s set the historical record straight. Never has the Senate provided for a certainty that 51 votes could put someone on the bench or pass legislation.” 

In any case, the press conference was not what a press conference should look like. His constant referral to notes, the softball questions by the media, his questionable answers, and his hypocrisy made him even less transparent, falling short on his promise to always be honest with the American people.

Remember, let’s be polite; let’s be respectful, but most of all, let’s be outspoken.

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