After weeks of attacking President Joe Biden for not holding a formal news conference, Fox News immediately came up with a new complaint about Biden’s transparency after he held his first one on Thursday: that he hasn’t done more of them.
“BIDEN SIGNED 37 EO’S BUT HOLDS JUST 1 NEWS CONF,” read the chyron Fox News displayed immediately after the news conference wrapped up.
OLD: wHy wOn'T BiDeN dO a NeWs cOnFeReNcE— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 25, 2021
NEW: wHy hAs BiDeN oNlY dOnE 1 nEwS CoNfErEnCe pic.twitter.com/GybARUGz8g
The sudden shift encapsulated the network’s bad-faith approach to covering Biden. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
Fox News carried Biden’s news conference live, but did so above a series of loaded chyrons that offered viewers alarmist language about policy concerns like Central American immigration. These were largely a continuation of the way the network has been covering administration policy.
But the press conference will make it tougher for the network to insinuate that Biden is hiding something. His responses to questions were largely coherent and thorough — undercutting claims Sean Hannity has been making on a nightly basis about Biden hiding because he’s in decline. And so, in a remarkable flip-flop from Hannity’s line, anchor Sandra Smith’s immediate post-news conference spin was to read part of a tweet from Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush, attacking Biden for being too prepared.
“Past White House press secretary Ari Fleischer noting the use of notes that the president used throughout that news conference, often referencing them, at times appearing to read directly from them,” Smith said.
Again, Biden was damned if he came prepared, and damned if he didn’t.
Fox News didn’t get to ask a question — and wasn’t happy about it
Biden took about 10 questions, all of them from reporters working for mainstream outlets like CNN and PBS. Conspicuously, he did not take a question from Fox News.
Unsurprisingly, Fox News made a fuss about this after the press conference. The network displayed a chyron that read, “BIDEN SNUBS FOX NEWS DURING FIRST NEWS CONF,” and anchor Dana Perino complained that “Peter Doocy is not [CNN reporter] Jim Acosta. He’s got good questions.”
Fox has spent a large part of their post-presser commentary complaining they weren't called on— Lis Power (@LisPower1) March 25, 2021
Fox anchor: I would definitely have told the president to call on Peter Doocy, he's not Jim Acosta. ... Why make Peter Doocy a story, just take his question and move on. pic.twitter.com/z6tlC8XLgP
Doocy even brandished a binder of questions he didn’t get a chance to ask Biden.
Peter Doocy has a binder of the questions he didn't get to ask pic.twitter.com/7O86qhu8S1— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 25, 2021
Doocy has distinguished himself during press secretary Jen Psaki’s daily briefings by asking gotcha-style questions on topics ranging from the national anthem to the Olympics to energy policy to school reopenings. He indicated to anchors during a segment following Biden’s presser that he hoped to ask the president loaded questions about his “big idea to transform the economy, to make it all green” and about “the origins of Covid.”
There are matters Doocy might have pressed Biden on that don’t involve fearmongering about jobs or xenophobia. Biden is not above reproach. For instance, his response to a growing number of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border has resulted in some of them being held in overcrowded conditions; some of that detention has been described as “jail-like.”
On Thursday, a number of reporters did, in fact, press Biden on his handling of this situation. Biden acknowledged that conditions there are “totally unacceptable” and vowed to address it swiftly.
Fox News hasn’t positioned itself well to tackle these kinds of topics. Unpacking Biden’s comments about immigration or diplomacy with China involves nuance often missing on a network that created special graphics highlighting how many days the president had gone without holding a presser. Instead, it has devoted time and resources to suggesting the mere fact that the president isn’t in a rush to joust with the likes of Doocy is a scandal in itself.
the biggest political scandal in history pic.twitter.com/SZy9g8xK7G— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 10, 2021
Now that Biden has met with the press in a formal setting, Fox News has immediately found something else to complain about — and not substantively. Whether a president should submit regularly to press questions and how the press can keep powerful figures accountable are matters worthy of consideration. But that’s not the conversation Fox News is having. And the network’s willingness to move the goalposts so shamelessly says more about Fox News than it does about Biden.