White House Rebuts Left-Wing Media’s Portrayal of Biden

Officials publicly criticized media outlets, including CNN, NBC, The New York Times, and CBS, calling their reporting false.
White House Rebuts Left-Wing Media’s Portrayal of Biden
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to a bipartisan group of governors in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 23, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)
Emel Akan
News Analysis

The White House has recently challenged the legacy media’s coverage of President Joe Biden, directing criticism at journalists following the Feb. 8 release of a special counsel’s report about the president’s mishandling of classified documents.

White House staff members have publicly criticized several media outlets, including CNN, NBC, The New York Times, and CBS, calling their reporting false.

Ian Sams, spokesperson for the White House counsel’s office, has frequently vented his frustration on social media platform X.

“The sustained failure of the media to accurately report on the Special Counsel report is alarming,” he wrote on Feb. 17.

He slammed NBC News for citing special counsel Robert Hur’s finding that the president knowingly kept classified materials at home.

“This is false. The report concluded there was NOT a case of knowing and willful retention. If it had found what NBC says, there would be charges,” Mr. Sams wrote.

In his 388-page report, the special counsel stated that his investigation “uncovered evidence that President Biden willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” after his vice presidency as a private citizen. However, Mr. Hur concluded that no criminal charges were warranted.

During a press briefing on Feb. 9, Mr. Sams argued that the special counsel’s report should be considered in its totality. The report detailed instances in which the president did not willfully possess or share classified documents, he said. He argued that Mr. Hur’s decision not to seek charges invalidated the evidence.

He continued to criticize the media in a letter dated Feb. 13 to Kelly O’Donnell, an NBC News reporter and the current president of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA).

“We all make mistakes,” Mr. Sams wrote in the letter, urging “caution in the future with reporting that either is inattentive to detail or misconstrues the facts and evidence.”

He offered some specific examples from CNN, CBS News, and The New York Times, calling them “all incorrect.”

The WHCA on Feb. 15 pushed back, calling the letter by Mr. Sams “misdirected.

“As a non-profit organization that advocates for its members in their efforts to cover the presidency, the WHCA does not, cannot, and will not serve as a repository for the government’s views of what’s in the news,” Ms. O’Donnell said in an email to members.

“In its 110-year history, our association has never controlled or policed the journalism that is published or broadcast by our members or their employers.”

The next day, Mr. Sams repeated his criticisms on social media, this time targeting Ken Dilanian, NBC News justice and intelligence correspondent, for posting an article and a comment about the president’s handling of classified documents. Mr. Dilanian posted the comment made by Elie Honig, a CNN senior legal analyst, that indicated that President Biden “arguably broke the law, and he definitely misled the American public.”

Mr. Sams expressed his frustration with both reporters on X.

“This is an embarrassingly false assessment by Elie Honig, amplified by Ken Dilanian, both of whom are smart and can read but apparently haven’t,” Mr. Sams wrote. “All these theories are raised in the report then thoroughly dissembled by facts & evidence.”

This is not the first time Mr. Sams has criticized the press. Last fall, he urged journalists to thoroughly examine the House Republicans’ motivations for their impeachment inquiry of President Biden.

‘Historically Unpopular Incumbent’

In a recent interview with the Reuters Institute, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger acknowledged that the White House has been “extremely upset” about his publication’s coverage of President Biden and his age.

“We are going to continue to report fully and fairly, not just on Donald Trump but also on President Joe Biden,” Mr. Sulzberger said.

“He is a historically unpopular incumbent and the oldest man to ever hold this office. We’ve reported on both of those realities extensively, and the White House has been extremely upset about it.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre criticized The New York Times’ reporting about President Biden during a press briefing on Feb. 20. She echoed the sentiments of former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, who suggested that the NY Times and other major media outlets “look in the mirror.”

In a recent interview with ABC News, popular radio host Lenard McKelvey, popularly known as Charlamagne, called President Biden an “uninspiring candidate.”

“He has no main character energy at all, none,” Mr. McKelvey said. He said that President Biden should step aside and let “more inspiring” and “more charismatic” candidates—such as Vice President Kamala Harris, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro—run for president in 2024.

Mr. McKelvey co-hosts “The Breakfast Club” on iHeartRadio, which attracts about 6 million monthly listeners.

Some have said that releasing the transcripts of President Biden’s interview with the special counsel could help address concerns about his age and mental acuity. The White House is still weighing whether to release them.

“There are discussions underway” about what could be released, President Biden’s personal attorney Bob Bauer told CBS News on Feb. 11.

House Republicans leading the impeachment inquiry against President Biden are demanding that the Justice Department turn over the transcripts and any recordings of the president’s interview with Mr. Hur.

“If the demand is formalized into a subpoena relating to the House’s impeachment investigation, a court would probably enforce it,” public interest law professor John Banzhaf said in a statement.

Mr. Banzhaf also said that one way to clarify the conflicting claims about President Biden’s memory would be to release the recordings to the public.

Will Democrats Campaign With Biden?

Some Democrats, especially in battleground and front-line districts, are expected to refrain from campaigning alongside the president for fear of being negatively affected amid President Biden’s low polling.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.) avoided responding directly when asked about the issue. She said, however, that candidates are free to decide what works best for them. During a press conference at the House Democratic Caucus retreat on Feb. 7, the congresswoman emphasized the unique characteristics of each race.

“Some are in states like California and New York that are probably not going to be heavily contested on a presidential level,” Ms. DelBene said. “Others will be, and so we expect that candidates are going to run campaigns based on what they think is right for their district.”

She added, however, that the president will be on the campaign trail with some of the candidates.

Democrat Tom Suozzi won a special election in New York on Feb. 13, flipping the seat previously held by ousted Republican Rep. George Santos. From the outset of his campaign, Mr. Suozzi distanced himself from President Biden and even voiced his concerns about the president’s age. He also acknowledged the border crisis. He won by eight points in the special election.

In a new Reuters/Ipsos poll, some 78 percent of respondents—including 71 percent of Democrats—said they think President Biden, 81, is too old to seek reelection. Meanwhile, 53 percent of respondents expressed the same sentiment for his likely opponent in the general election, former President Donald Trump, who is 77.

President Biden, however, seems unfazed by growing concerns about his age, as he has continued to make jokes about it.

“Folks, please continue to eat. I’m used to not being taken seriously,” President Biden said on Feb. 21 at a campaign event in San Francisco.

“The fact is that I’m getting pretty old, but I did not know Aristotle. I was only kidding.”

Emel Akan is a senior White House correspondent for The Epoch Times, where she covers the Biden administration. Prior to this role, she covered the economic policies of the Trump administration. Previously, she worked in the financial sector as an investment banker at JPMorgan. She graduated with a master’s degree in business administration from Georgetown University.
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