Joe Biden Cites Drop In News Channel Viewership: “The Cables Are Heading South” — Update
UPDATE, 2:55 PM PT: Joe Biden wrapped up a surprisingly long presidential press conference , lasting nearly two hours, insisting that he was willing to reach out to any Republican but that he was facing an opposition that was even different than when he served as vice president to Barack Obama.
Toward the end of the press conference, in which he took questions from 22 reporters, ranging from those from The New York Times and Newsmax, Biden offered a critique of the media — and the potential demise of cable news networks.
He seemed to be making the point of how much media consumption has changed and that it has led to a polarization in the country with conflicting sources of information.
“The American public are trying to sift their way through what is real and what is fake,” Biden said. “I have never seen a time when … the choice of what political coverage the voter looks to has had as much impact on as what they believe. They get it to reinforce their views, whether it is MSNBC or whether it is Fox. One of the things I find that is fascinating that is happening, and you all deal with it every day … is that a lot of the speculation and the polling data shows that the cables are heading south. They are losing viewership. Fox is OK, for a while…but a lot of the rest are predicted to not being very much in the mix in four to five years. I don’t know whether it is true or not, but I do know that we have sort of put everybody … in certain alleys. How many people watch MSNBC also watch Fox?”
“I am not expert in any of this, but the fact is, I think you have to acknowledge that what gets covered now is necessarily a little bit different than what gets covered in the past.”
Biden is correct: Cable news viewership is down across the board, in some cases significantly, from the peaks of 2020. All of the major networks have been investing heavily in streaming options, which seems to be a bit of a hedge if habits shift away from the cable model.
UPDATE, 2:09 PM PT: Joe Biden offered a short answer when asked by NBC News’ Kristen Welker’s question — is he satisfied with Vice President Kamala Harris’ work on voting rights and will she be his running mate in 2024.
“Yes and yes,” Biden said.
Harris has been the target of some media scrutiny, particularly on the right, of her effectiveness as vice president. More recently, some pundits have offered suggestions on a new No. 2 for 2024, like New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, who floated a Biden-Liz Cheney unity ticket.
“She is going to be my running mate,” Biden said. “I think she is doing a good job.”
UPDATE, 2 PM PT: At several points during Joe Biden’s press conference, he has railed against Republican intransigence, even saying that he has been surprised at the level of opposition.
That signals a not too uncommon strategy for the midterms: Running against the opposition as obstructionists. “Name one thing they are for,” Biden said.
He also tied the opposition to his predecessor, Donald Trump.
“Did you ever think that one man out of office could intimidate an entire party where they’re unwilling to take any vote contrary to what he thinks should be taken for fear of being defeated in a primary,” Biden said.
UPDATE, 1:42 PM PT: President Joe Biden insisted that his Build Back Better plan is not dead, and that he could still get “big chunks” of the legislation passed if the package is broken up into pieces.“I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, and come back fight for the rest later,” Biden said. He suggested that the energy and the $500 billion environment component of the bill may get passage as a standalone, while Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has opposed the massive package, has expressed support for early childhood education, as well a proposals to pay for the legislation. The president’s remarks signal a shift in strategy over the centerpiece of his agenda, which the White House and Democrats have tried to get passed as a massive package. But that has run into roadblocks amid unified Republican opposition and that of Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
PREVIOUSLY: As he nears a year in office with underwater poll numbers, President Joe Biden started a press conference by running through a list of his administration’s accomplishments while acknowledging the American weariness over the ongoing Covid pandemic.
“Some people may call it a new normal,” Biden said. “I call it a job not yet finished. It will get better.”
“We are not there yet, but we will get there.”
Biden also seemed to accept that the administration was surprised by the Omicron variant, as reporters have queried White House officials in recent weeks on testing capacity.
“Should we have done more testing earlier? Yes. But we are doing more testing now,” Biden said.
This was Biden’s first formal press conference at the White House since last March, although the president has held joint events with foreign leaders as well as press availability in other situations. Only about 30 reporters were allowed to attend, due to the Covid pandemic, far different than press conferences of the past, when correspondents were packed into the East Room.
The press conference was carried across broadcast and cable networks, although the BBC cut away from Biden’s opening remarks, then turned to coverage of the controversy surrounding British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Biden said that “some people call [Covid] a new normal. I call it a job not yet finished.”
More to come.