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Tuesday, March 30, 2021

OPINION:

After 64 days without a press conference — the longest span of any new president in a century — President Biden last week finally held a presser and it was, uh … just plain weird.

Mr. Biden, 78, lost his train of thought a few times, rambled off topic, answered questions that weren’t asked, randomly yelled angrily and repeatedly referred to cheat sheets to answer questions from reporters. At one point, Mr. Biden just weirdly wandered away from the podium and started talking before he was back at his microphone.


But there was something far more bizarre going on behind the scenes. While the White House briefing room holds 49 reporters in assigned seats — and presidents often hold press conferences in the Rose Garden, allowing for dozen more reporters to attend — there were just 30 reporters allowed in the East Room for Mr. Biden’s event.

It all gets weirder. Here are the journalists who attended and their news outlets:

Cecilia Vega (ABC); Karen Travers (ABC News Radio); Jerome Cartillier (Agence France-Presse); Zeke Miller (Associated Press); Justin Sink (Bloomberg); Nancy Cordes (CBS); Steven Portnoy (CBS News Radio); Kaitlan Collins (CNN); Peter Doocy (Fox); Kevin Robillard (Huffington Post); Gary Martin (Las Vegas Review-Journal); Michael Wilner (McClatchy); Kristen Welker (NBC); Zolan Kanno-Youngs (New York Times); Emerald Robinson (Newsmax); Ayesha Rascoe (NPR); Yamiche Alcindor (PBS); Anita Kumar (Politico); Marek Walkuski (Polskie Radio); Philip Wegmann (RealClearPolitics); Jarrett Renshaw (Reuters); Ching-Yi Chang (Shanghai Media Group); Scott Thuman (Sinclair); April Ryan (The Grio); Brian Bennett (Time); Janet Rodríguez (Univision); Courtney Subramanian (USA Today); Ken Thomas (Wall Street Journal); Chris Johnson (Washington Blade); and Seung Min Kim (Washington Post).

Now, I covered the White House for more than a decade, and I can tell you that aside from Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and Newsmax, every other outlet ranges from liberal to hard left (although I’ll admit I’ve got no idea about Polskie Radio).

The Washington Times, you’ll note, was not included.

Before the presser, the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) informed journalists who cover the beat how it decided who would attend.

“Consistent with its longstanding mission and in service to the public, the WHCA Board has worked to ensure that the journalists in the room will be representative of the broader press corps. Working from the Briefing Room rotations we’ve established for the pandemic, and the WHCA’s permanent seating chart, we have aimed to include a variety of outlets — large and small, national and regional, domestic and foreign — across all formats, with the aim to ensure that the journalists in the room reflect the diversity of our press corps and the nation,” the WHCA wrote to reporters.

You’ll also note that the “variety of outlets” the WHCA was seeking did not include “liberal and conservative.”

How one-sided was the presser conference? Consider this question from Ms. Alcindor of PBS, who badgered former President Donald Trump and his press aides for four years, almost always with biased, loaded questions. For Mr. Biden, she puckered her lips and smooched.

“Yamiche?” Mr. Biden said after consulting a cheat sheet of pre-planned reporters.

“Thanks so much, Mr. President. You’ve said over and over again that immigrants shouldn’t come to this country right now; this isn’t the time to come. That message is not being received. Instead, the perception of you that got you elected — as a moral, decent man — is the reason why a lot of immigrants are coming to this country and entrusting you with unaccompanied minors,” she said.

Loaded much? The scene was reminiscent of one from the movie “Broadcast News,” in which a low-level TV news staffer sucks up to her big boss, drawing scorn from reporter Aaron Altman, played by Albert Brooks.

“Oh, you think anyone who’s proud of the work we do is an ass-kisser,” says the staffer. “No, I think anyone who puckers up their lips and presses it against their boss’s buttocks and then smooches is an ass-kisser,” Mr. Altman says.

Ms. Cordes of CBS followed with an equally biased — and smoochy — question.

“I want to go back to voting rights. And as Yamiche mentioned, Republican legislatures across the country are working to pass bills that would restrict voting, particularly, Democrats fear, impacting minority voters and young voters — the very people who helped to get you elected in November. Are you worried that if you don’t manage to pass voting rights legislation that your party is going to lose seats and possibly lose control of the House and the Senate in 2022?”

That’s not softball, that’s tee ball.

Say what you want about Mr. Trump, but he accomplished one major achievement while in office: He unmasked the pseudo-unbiased press corps for what they are — hardcore liberals bent on getting a Democrat into the White House and, now, keeping him there, getting his back.

And now, there’s no going back. That may well be Mr. Trump’s most lasting legacy.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.


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