Biden bubble: How first lady Jill and staff ‘protect’ president from White House press

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Three years into Joe Biden’s presidency, reporters covering the administration know what to expect when first lady Jill Biden shows up: nothing.

The president, 81, has held the fewest press conferences or formal interviews of any modern president – leaving Biden’s jaunts across the South Lawn of the White House to and from his Marine One helicopter as the best chance for the press to get some. face time

When Mr. Biden is alone, he is much more easily baited with clamoring questions, sometimes moving around midnight to deliver – despite the overhead TV lights that made his hand held up to protect his eyes from the glare.

However, the presence of Jill, 72, on such trips is a dead giveaway that there will be no questions, with the first lady making sure to hold her husband’s hand all the way across the lawn.

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Joe and Jill Biden speak at the podium

First lady Jill Biden and White House staff have tried to come to the president’s aid at press conferences over the past three years, to prevent Joe Biden from ‘ raising questions and possibly making a gaffe. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Jill Biden’s role in shielding her husband from members of the media has come under fresh scrutiny after special counsel Robert Hur described the president in a report released Thursday as an “old man with a bad memory”.

Biden has held just three White House press conferences since taking office in January 2021. At the most recent, in November 2022, Jill arrived at the last minute and sat at the very front of the State Dining Room with a cow aide – who was positioned so that journalists could not see if the first lady was urging her husband at any time to return quickly.

Perhaps such a warning was needed after Biden’s second press conference in the White House in January 2022, a marathon affair in which the president continued for almost two hours and made several factual errors and notable gaffes .

At that press conference, Biden suggested that a “mini-aggression” by Russia into Ukraine would result in a minimal response from the US, leaving officials in Kyiv alarmed and suggesting that the president had given Vladimir Putin a “green light” to attack – which he did weeks later.

“Why didn’t anyone stop that?” Jill Biden scolded aides, demanding an explanation for her husband being left to lead the world, according to excerpts from an upcoming book by a New York Times reporter Katie Rogers, reported Friday by Axios.

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Jill Biden makes a speech

According to excerpts from a forthcoming book by New York Times reporter Katie Rogers, the first lady was tapped by aides after Mr. Biden told a White House reporter about the Russia and Ukraine. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“Everyone remained silent, looking at each other, and then at her, and back at each other,” Rogers wrote. “That included the most powerful man in the world.

“Her husband pretty much played along, offering no response, even though aides had handed him a card suggesting he end the press conference,” said the book.

The first lady has also taken on the role of her husband’s stage manager, leading Joe off the stage by the hand at an event last month to mark the anniversary of the Capitol riots on January 6 2021 after several cases of the president’s hesitation or departure. in the wrong direction after giving comments.

Jill is not alone: ​​White House staff have also gone to great lengths to prevent the president from potentially embarrassing interactions.

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Jen Psaki, former press secretary for Joe Biden, tried to step in to end the January 2022 convention twice. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

At the same press conference in January 2022 that caused so much turmoil for the first lady, then press secretary Jen Psaki – clad in a distinctive pink blazer – stood up after about an hour in an attempt to match seems to bring the proceedings to an end.

Psaki sat back as Biden continued to field questions, only to stand up again about 20 minutes later and walk to a door about 50 feet away from the press seating area in another apparent attempt to to end the questioning, which continued for another 40 minutes. .

But the most high-profile staff intervention at the White House Easter Egg Roll happened in April 2022, when then director of message planning Meghan Hays, dressed in an Easter bunny outfit, stepped in to prevent Biden from answering an Afghan journalist’s question and directing it. away from the rope line.

The White House press office has also played its part, introducing a Byzantine pre-screening process to choose which reporters are allowed to attend major internal events open to the public. all under past administrations – leading to complaints that those most associated with the administration. please expand it.

Pre-screening was scaled back after an outcry by members of the press corps in the summer of 2022, but returned before Biden’s last-minute response to Hur’s report Thursday night. Digital RSVP forms went out just minutes before the hastily-scheduled event in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room and some reporters on the executive mansion campus were denied access to the venue where the relatively small.

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President Joe Biden

President Biden has held the fewest press conferences of any other president and hasn’t had a major press conference since the APEC summit back in November. (Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Despite all the warnings, Biden’s penchant for saying the wrong thing was never hidden for long.

At that November 2022 White House press conference, for example, Biden said he would take 10 reporters’ questions from a pre-approved list of names, but left after only nine. his call – after a brutal gaffe in which he said Russian troops were preparing to withdraw from the Iraqi city of Fallujah when he meant to say the Ukrainian city of Kherson.

These labels have increased in recent weeks, with Biden mixing the names of current foreign leaders with those of his predecessors. On Sunday, he told a Las Vegas audience that he had recently spoken with the late French President Francois Mitterrand, who died in 1996. In Manhattan on Wednesday, Biden reminded donors that he considered e on riot January 6, 2021, Capitol with German. Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who last served in 1998 and died in 2017.

On Thursday night, moments after insisting that “I know what the hell I’m doing” in response to Hur’s report, Biden acknowledged Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi as “head -sit Mexico”.

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The president has not held a press conference of any size since the APEC summit in November, where he appeared confused as he stood side by side with other world leaders and that he put his name in the wrong place.

That same month, his re-election campaign launched Operation Bubble Wrap, which insiders told The New York Times was aimed at protecting the president from his erratic trips and don’t stumble – whether on stage or when boarding Air Force One.

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