AN OLD TRICK: Networks Try to Hide News of Joe Biden’s 81st Birthday

November 21st, 2023 1:02 PM

Forget the economy, inflation, the border, soaring debt, rising crime, and a host of foreign policy problems — the biggest problem facing Joe Biden as he runs for re-election is undoubtedly his age. That’s because Democratic voters — by a huge margin — says he’s too old for another term, and when you’ve lost your own voters, it’s a bad sign.

So how did ABC, CBS and NBC cover Biden’s history-making 81st birthday on Monday? Mostly by ignoring it, except a few seconds to dutifully convey Biden’s attempt to make a joke out of it:

■ ABC’s Good Morning America skipped it both Monday and Tuesday; David Muir gave it ten seconds on World News Tonight, and only after he had thoroughly covered Biden’s pardoning of two Thanksgiving turkeys: “The President also celebrating his 81st birthday today. He poked fun at his age, noting it’s the 76th anniversary of the turkey pardon, adding he wasn’t there for the first one, saying he was a little too young to make it.”

CBS Mornings skipped it on Monday, but fill-in anchor Jericka Duncan allowed eleven seconds on the CBS Evening News: “Today is also the President’s 81st birthday, if you haven’t heard already. The oldest president in the United States’ history cracked a joke about the difficulty of ‘turning 60.’”

Tuesday’s CBS Mornings included a seven-second clip as part of their “Eye Opener.” Viewers heard an unnamed reporter explain: “President Biden is spending his 81st birthday carrying out the White House turkey pardon,” followed by Biden shouting the turkeys’ names: “Liberty and Bell!”

■ There was no mention of the President’s birthday on NBC’s Today either Monday or Tuesday, and nothing on Monday’s NBC Nightly News.

The grand total, across more than 13 hours of network news coverage: Just 28 seconds.

Unlike their broadcast competitors, FNC’s Special Report went beyond Biden’s canned jokes to explore the political consequences. Reporter Mark Meredith started with his exchange that day with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre:

MARK MEREDITH: Is there a real alarm happening behind the scenes that the President is simply too old to stay around another four years?

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: No, there is no alarm happening behind the scenes. I would put the President’s stamina, the President’s wisdom, ability to get this done on behalf of the American people against anyone — anyone — on any day of the week.

MEREDITH: As the White House dismisses the polls, notable Democrats including former Obama aid David Axelrod say it should be a wake-up call. Axelrod telling the New York Times, quote: ‘He thinks he can cheat nature here and it’s really risky. They have got a real problem if they’re counting on Trump to win it for them. I remember Hillary doing that, too.’”

Later in the same show, viewers heard a clip of New York Times reporter Peter Baker on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports explain how the Biden White House wanted this news suppressed:

You are not going to see a big lavish celebration the way Barack Obama celebrated his 50th birthday in office, or Bill Clinton celebrated his birthdays with fundraisers and concerts and all that. You’re going to see, basically, almost nothing. I mean, he’s not going to do anything in public about it today. He does not want to call attention to it. According to all the polls, it’s not just that Trump people think he is too old, it’s that too many Democrats — from the point of the White House — think he is too old at age 81.

Indeed, voters of all political stripes appear to have concluded that Biden’s age will be a big factor in their vote next year. Last August, a poll by AP-NORC found 69% of Democrats said Biden was “too old to effectively serve another 4-year term as president,” a sentiment shared by 74% of independents and 89% of Republican voters.

Which makes the lack of coverage yesterday and today all the more astonishing — except for the fact that the networks did exactly what Team Biden wanted them to do.