President Biden wrapped up remarks on the state of the economy ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in approximately 10 minutes Tuesday, then exited stage right with shouted question from reporters ringing in his ears — including “When will you answer our questions, sir?”
“Thank you for your time and effort, and I’ll have plenty of time to talk to you later,” Biden said before strolling off the stage at the Executive Office Building next door to the White House.
CBS News Radio correspondent Steven Portnoy, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, tweeted that he was the one who had asked Biden about when he would next talk to the press as the president disappeared from view.
“The specific question was, ‘When will you tell us what you discussed with Xi Jinping and other leaders? When will you answer our questions, sir?,’” wrote Portnoy, referring to the Nov. 15 virtual meeting between Biden and his Chinese counterpart.
“It’s been over a week since the Xi summit,” Portnoy added parenthetically, “and Americans still haven’t heard from their president about what he discussed.”
It was the latest example of Biden avoiding prolonged interaction with the White House press corps, a trait which has caused frustration among some members of the media.
The White House denied reporters the chance to formally question the president about the Xi meeting last week when they announced that Biden would not hold a press conference following a trilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
At a morning bill-signing event ahead of the afternoon meetings, the president reassured reporters that “I’ll be happy to answer your questions after I meet with all of the leaders.”
However, though Biden took questions prior to a one-on-one sitdown with Trudeau, he did not do so when meeting face-to-face with Obrador or when the three leaders gathered for the main meeting.
At that day’s White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki insisted that Biden was regularly available to the press and claimed that the president had taken questions “a total of at least 10 times this month.”
However, Biden has a history of only answering one or two queries at a time and has given far fewer interviews than his predecessors, to the point that reporters have regularly complained about a lack of access both at the White House and on trips abroad.
Psaki shrugged off those concerns last week, telling Politico editor Anita Kumar: “I think that’s more an issue related to the White House press corps … than it is a concern to the American public.”