Wednesday marked what had to have been one of the more stressful days at the White House as President Biden spent nearly two hours before reporters, calling on 24 of them and fielding over 60 questions on a robust set of issues (aside from crime and illegal immigration).
And while NewsBusters covered on Wednesday night the questions from Fox’s Peter Doocy, the New York Post’s Steven Nelson, Newsmax’s James Rosen, and Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann, we thought we’d take a look at the other questions from more establishment, (supposedly) objective, and/or traditional outlets.
Many were boring and unremarkable, but there were plenty of softballs as well as examples of reporters doing their jobs.
Below represents the five worst and then the five best questions from the other 20 reporters, counting down from five to one (with one being the best).
1. Alex Nazaryan — Yahoo! News (part 1)
Serving as a reminder that Yahoo! still exists, Nazaryan sounded like he was asking a question on behalf of MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “You said you were surprised by Republican obstruction of your agenda but didn't the GOP take exactly the same tactic when you were Vice President to Barack Obama? So, why did you think they would treat you any differently than they treated him?”
Ah, yes. The play for sympathy! Will the liberal media ever let up with the “woe is Joe” narrative?
2. Zeke Miller — Associated Press
Miller led off the first Biden White House press conference and, just as he did then, he fell flat on his face for the second one, citing a litany of problems facing the administration before offering a cushy landing:
I know that some of my colleagues will get into some specific issues, but I wanted to zoom out into your first year in office. Inflation is up, your signature domestic legislation is stalled in Congress. In a few hours from now, the Senate — an effort in the Senate to deal with voting rights and voting reform legislation is going to fail. COVID-19 is still taking the lives of 1,500 Americans every day and the nation’s divisions are just as raw as they were a year ago. Did you overpromise to the American public what you could achieve during your first year in office? And how do you plan to course correct going forward?
For an organization often viewed as the first draft of history, Miller’s takes are more like the first draft of hackery.
3. Alex Nazaryan — Yahoo! News (part 2)
Nazaryan made his second appearance here with more partisan framing: “There’s an increasing concern, I think, among some Democrats that even if schools do continue to open and I get that most of them are now opened, Republicans will weaponize this narrative of you — of you and other leading Democrats allowing them to stay closed[.]”
Somehow confused by this question, Nazaryan clarified: “[C]ould school reopenings or closures become a potent midterm issue for Republicans to win back the suburbs?”
4. Kristen Welker — NBC News
The NBC chief White House correspondent worked in a question that, like Nazaryan’s eye-rolling take, came off like it was the stuff of a far-left activist reporter such as Welker’s new colleague Yamiche Alcindor (click “expand”):
WELKER: I want to ask you about your domestic agenda. You've gotten a lot of questions about voting rights, Mr. President, but I want to ask you about Black voters, one of your most loyal constituencies.
WELKER: I was in Congressman Clyburn's district yesterday in South Carolina. You opened this news conference talking about him. I spoke to a number of Black voters who fought to get you elected and now they feel as though you're not fighting hard enough for them and their priorities and they told me they see this push on voting rights more as a last minute PR push than it is a legitimate effort to get legislation passed, so what do you say to these Black voters who say that you do not have their backs as you promised on the campaign trail?
5. Maureen Groppe — USA Today
Similarly serving the role Nazaryan did in reminding viewers that USA Today is still around, Groppe first asked the President about his Build Back Better legislation, but it was her second question that harped on pressure the White House has faced from the left: “[N]ow that the Supreme Court has blocked the vaccination or test rule for larger businesses, are you can reconsidering whether to require vaccines for domestic flights as a way to boost vaccination rates?”
1. Allison Harris — NewsNation
Representing the delightfully objective and refreshing NewsNation, Harris made waves with the presser’s fifth question that triggered its own news cycle as she asked about the legitimacy of the 2022 midterms: “Speaking of voting rights legislation, if this isn't passed, do you still believe the upcoming election will be fairly conducted and its results will be legitimate?”
In part, Biden said “it all depends on whether or not we’re able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try to alter the outcome of the election.”
2. Jennifer Epstein — Bloomberg
Epstein also triggered a news cycle and a litany of administrative walk backs as, during Biden’s answer to her question about the crisis along the Russia/Ukraine border, he seemed to give Russia the okay to invade so long as it was a “minor incursion.”
As for the question itself, Epstein pointed out the ineffectiveness of sanctions in having deterred Russia
Your top foreign policy advisers have warned that Russia is now ready to attack Ukraine, but there’s still little unity among European allies about what a package of sanctions against Moscow would look like. If the U.S. and NATO aren’t willing to put troops on the line to defend Ukraine and American allies can't agree on a sanctions package, hasn't the U.S. and the West lost nearly all of its leverage over Vladimir Putin? And given how ineffective sanctions have been in deterring Putin in the past, why should the threat of new sanctions give him pause?
3. Steven Portnoy — CBS News Radio
Portnoy — who’s also president of the White House Correspondents Association — helped bring up the rear as the second-to-last reporter Biden called on, but he thankfully didn’t use that as a license to lob a softball.
Instead, he fired off this query after Biden boasted of his physical stamina and joked he could do push-ups:
[T]he question I want to ask you gets to accountability, sir, on one of the top public concerns, of course, which is the coronavirus and the government's response it. Whether it's confusion over what style of mask to wear, when the test, how to test, where to test, you know, the public is confused, sir, and you see that in — in the drop off polling on this question. Why did you tell Jeff that you were satisfied with your team? Why are you not willing to make or interested in making any changes either at the CDC or other agencies given the fact that the messages have been so confusing?
4. Francesca Chambers — McClatchy
For our fifth laudable question, we go to a former Red Alert and Washington Examiner editor in Chambers who asked Biden point-blank to explain “what does the new normal look like for social gatherings and travel” as well as “what type of restrictions” does he “imagine being on Americans” by January 2023.
5. Pedro Rojas — Univision
Fresh off the beat along the U.S.-Mexico border, new White House reporter Pedro Rojas questioned Biden about whether he’d travel throughout the Western Hemisphere to combat rising Chinese “influence,” but it was his other question that hit home (which was a variation of one from earlier by The Wall Street Journal’s Ken Thomas):
[W]hat will be your message for residents of this country that are struggling every time they go to the gas station, every time they go to the grocery store, and see the prices going higher in the pharmacy? I happen to come from South Texas where I saw a lot of people struggling financially in the last few months and so I think you — I wonder what is the message you want to spread to them?