CBS announced this week that Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell will be interviewing Joe Biden before the Super Bowl. The presidential interview just prior to the big game became a tradition during the Obama years as journalistic hacks across various networks tossed softballs to the Democrat.
Given that O’Donnell worked to protect Biden in a fall 2020 interview from scrutiny about son Hunter Biden, the chances for tough questions seem sketchy. Here’s a NewsBusters flashback to past gushing over Democrats before the Super Bowl: In 2016, CBS News assigned This Morning co-host Gayle King, a donor, supporter, and vacation pal of the Obama family, to interview the President and his wife before the Super Bowl. In doing this, the network guaranteed one of the softest interviews in the history of the Democratic administration.
Asking not one serious question, the journalist instead highlighted her favorite photo of the President and his wife. King also brought up dance moves, relationship issues and Super Bowl predictions.
At one point during the nearly-eight minute segment, the CBS host held up a photograph from the 2009 inaugural balls. She gushed, “I just happen to have this picture here....What were you two thinking? One word? It's one of my favorite pictures of the Obama administration.”
Highlighting a film about the 1989 first date between Barack and Michelle Obama, King enthused, “When I think about the Obamas, even your dates make national news. They become news stories.”
Before the 2009 game, Matt Lauer enthused to Obama: “Has there been any surprise in terms about life in the White House? Is there something at the White House that you didn't think they had or doesn't have that you thought they did have?”
The not-yet disgraced Today host continued, “...Not only did you just become president, obviously that carries a certain amount of fame with it. But — but you have achieved a — a certain rock-star status outside of that.”
The enamored Lauer continued, "...Not only did you just become president, obviously that carries a certain amount of fame with it. But — but you have achieved a — a certain rock-star status outside of that."
The Super Bowl interview rotates between the networks that carry football (CBS, Fox and NBC). In 2009, Lauer talked to Obama. In 2010, then-CBS anchor Katie Couric scored the interview. In 2011, it was Fox News's O'Reilly.
In 2012, Lauer again got the job. In 2013, it returned to CBS and Scott Pelley. In 2014, O'Reilly grilled Obama. The two appearances on Fox constitute rare instances when Obama talked to the network. In 2015, it came back to NBC and Savannah Guthrie. The Today co-host asked some tough questions. She highlighted that critics have called Obama “delusional” and “passive” on terrorism.
But Guthrie also gushed about the excitement of Super Bowl prep: “We are in the White House kitchen where, among other things, you brew beer!” She also wondered, “Have you been following Deflategate and do you have an opinion about whether the Patriots cheated?”
In 2020, just prior to the Chiefs taking on the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, Donald Trump sat down with FNC's Sean Hannity. In 2017, he talked to Bill O’Reilly for Fox. The then-President skipped it in 2018 and chatted with CBS’s Margaret Brennan in 2019.
The O’Reilly interview resulted in some tough questions, harder than Obama mostly endured. Will Norah O’Donnell deliver some serious journalistic questions? It’s quite possible, but past Super Bowl history isn’t encouraging.
For more examples from our FLASHBACK series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.