31.03.2021 Author: Vladimir Danilov

Western Media’s Take on Biden’s First Press Conference


As expected, the White House’s attempt to rehabilitate the public image of the new US president after Biden’s shameful dodging of the live debate that Vladimir Putin offered his American counterpart to hold, according to international media sources, resulted in a complete fiasco. Instead of a full-fledged press conference of the newly elected American president, we’ve witnessed a staged farce, and a rather cheap one, one might add.

It turned out, that shortly before the press conference, Biden got himself in yet another awkward situation and his aides were forced to hastily withdraw the press from the room. However, in spite of the massive censorship, the Fox News channel managed to make Biden’s confusion and complete disorientation public. It seemed that the 78-year-old US president completely forgot where he came from and with whom he should be communicating: “…Ron, who am I turning this over to?” — said Joe Biden, after which the White House chief of staff Ron Klain had to react quickly to hush up the incident, immediately removing all journalists from the conference room. And at this moment, Biden himself looked confused and uncomprehending of the commotion and the noise that arose around him…

As Fox News emphasized, during his first official press conference, President Biden answered questions from no more than 10 journalists, while staying away from discussing a great many very of important topics that interest the American public. There was simply “no time left” to discuss the problems associated with the pandemic, including school openings and attempts to persuade the public to undergo vaccination, as well as to comment on the numerous scandals surrounding the Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, and the growing anti-Asian sentiment in the US, or touch upon the identity and motives of the shooter who killed several people in the city of Boulder.

The sitting US president only answered a handful of foreign policy questions, speaking about China and North Korea, but without ever mentioning Russia, in spite of the fact that the Democrats talk about it all the time. Biden tried to elaborate on the problem of Afghanistan, but he only revealed that it would be “difficult” to withdraw troops from this country, as it was planned, before the beginning of May due to “tactical reasons”. At the same time, he noted that at the moment there are no plans to keep American troops stationed there until next year: “We will not stay long,” Biden added, while pointing out that the only question is when American troops are to be withdrawn. In response to a clarifying question about when this might actually happen, the US president frankly admitted: “I do not know,” making it clear that there are other people in the country who are much better informed than him.

The New York Post highlights the fact that during his meeting with reporters, the US president would repeatedly consult cheat sheets that, among other things, contained photos and names of journalists he had to call on. But despite the fact that the answers to all the questions that were to be asked were lying in front of him, Biden still made the mistake of saying that America ranks 85th in the world in terms of infrastructure. Although the number of participants in the long-awaited meeting was limited to 25 reporters, it was obvious that Biden would only answer the questions of a handful of selected journalists and media outlets, that were marked with numbers on his cheat sheets, the publication claims. The New York Post also draws attention to the fact that, at the beginning of his press conference, the president seemed to constantly lose his train of thought, forgetting questions, asking reporters if they wanted him to give detailed answers, and often consulting the notes that were prepared for him in advance.

Unlike his predecessor that was harassed by the media that tried to embarrass him with curveball questions, Biden clearly enjoyed ideal conditions, with the media playing softball with the sitting US president. As NBC reporter Geoff Bennett made clear, Biden’s staff took advantage of the restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic to minimize the number of journalists allowed to participate in the press conferences, while only allowing the so-called friendly media personalities to ask questions. So there was no chance for a local reporter from a little-known newspaper to ask Joe Biden a difficult or uncomfortable question. However, even those who were allowed in looked confused, as they had a hard time figuring own why Biden could not fully answer the questions that he knew they would ask.

The fact that the 78-year-old Biden relied on cheat sheets during his first press conference, but at times still lost his train of thought, was underlined by the Daily Mail, that has always been overtly friendly to Washington.

The Der Spiegel drew attention to the fact that Biden took an unjustifiably long time to hold his first press conference, since 65 days have passed since the inauguration. The publication notes there couldn’t be any more stark difference between the sitting US president and his predecessor. While Trump was constantly speaking to the press and liked to shock the whole world with his absurd statements, Biden does the opposite, he does not appear in public as often, avoids excessive publicity, always seems a little exhausted and slow.

As Fox News viewers noted, Biden’s press conference left too many questions, instead of giving answers, and answers is the thing one would typically expect from such a public event. Thus, the viewers are perplexed: what was that all about?

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova noted that the first press conference of the US president Joe Biden was staged, adding that the communication tools that the US leaders use in dealing with reporters cause concern. She noted that Washington has always spoken about the importance of freedom of speech and the need to avoid “any manifestations of dishonesty” in relations with the media. Because of this fact, it’s strange to see all of the features that the US would typically criticise manifest themselves in the actions of the United States public representatives. The spokeswoman also added that the White House hasn’t just allowed itself to discriminate Russian journalists, but has applied the same bias to other foreign journalists, as it was clear that the floor was given to a small group of selected journalists at the press conference.

In short, the event in question is usually described by journalists independent of Washington as “a failure” and “a shame”. The whole world, including the United States itself, has witnessed that the new American king is “naked”, unable even for a very short period time to concentrate on the task at hand. And in this regard, there was a clear dissonance, as noted by Der Spiegel, between his condition and his answer to a rather ridiculous question: whether he has already made a decision on whether to run for president in 2024, as Trump has already done by this point. To which Biden replied that he certainly has such a plan…

Biden is clearly trying to refute the hints made by Trump that his age is not too suitable for the start of a new presidential race and Trump’s public characterization of Biden as “Sleepy Joe”, which has already become commonplace, by inviting Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping to climate talks on the day following this press conference. And at the same time, in a telephone conversation with British prime minister Boris Johnson on March 26, he said that “democratic states” could create an alternative to the Chinese global initiative “One Belt – One Road”.

But will these “initiatives” be good enough to change the public sentiment toward the new US president?

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.