White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday declined to confirm the date that President Joe Biden will hold his first solo press conference, despite mounting pressure and calls for him to finally do so.
More than 40 days into his presidency, Biden has come under increasing media spotlight for not holding a traditional open news conference, the longest stretch of any president over the last century.
In contrast, his 15 predecessors held solo press briefings within 33 days of their respective presidencies. Former president Donald Trump took questions after 27 days in office, while Barack Obama held a formal press conference only 20 days into his first term.
While Biden since Jan. 20 has held 38 “short question-and-answer” sessions with reporters, as reported by Martha Joynt Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project, his answers on a wide range of issues have so far been brief.
Biden came under fire on Wednesday at a virtual event with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), when the White House video feed was cut, devoid of any explanation, after the president declared he was “happy to take questions” from Democratic lawmakers.
Brett Bruen, White House director of global engagement under Obama, suggested that Biden’s lack of interaction with the media may be “counterproductive.”
“He talks about the role of journalists as being a critical one, and yet, access to a president is really the barometer by which we judge the importance that a president assigns to the media,” Bruen claimed.
The president’s approach so far may be “counterproductive to the kind of connection that both the White House needs with journalists as well as the president needs with the people,” he said.
“Where’s Joe?” questioned Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s former press secretary, during an appearance on Fox News. “Joe Biden needs to step up. We need to hear from him. He needs to engage in the transparency that he promised us.”
The White House press secretary this week pushed back against criticism, but failed to elaborate on when the president is likely to hold a formal briefing.
“We look forward to holding a full formal news conference, but in the meantime the President takes questions from the reporters covering the White House regularly, including this morning,” Psaki told CNN late on Wednesday. “And his focus day in and day out is on getting the pandemic under control and putting people back to work. That’s what people elected him to do.”
“He will hold a solo press conference, but I don’t have a date for you at this point in time,” she told reporters just last week.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.