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Opinion It’s past time for Biden to hold a news conference

White House press secretary Jen Psaki takes questions from journalists during her daily press briefing at the White House on Friday.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki takes questions from journalists during her daily press briefing at the White House on Friday. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)
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WHITE HOUSE press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that President Biden would hold a news conference “before the end of the month.” Last month would have been better, and this week would be better than next. Avoiding news conferences must not become a regular habit for Mr. Biden. He is the president, and Americans have every right to expect that he will regularly submit himself to substantial questioning.

We say this while recognizing that Mr. Biden has shown galaxies more respect for the free press and the people’s right to know than his predecessor did. He reinstated daily news briefings, which are led by Ms. Psaki and often feature Cabinet members and other senior administration officials. Those briefings are informative, not forums for White House lackeys to attack journalists. Daily briefings are back at the State Department, too.

Mr. Biden has also given several TV and print interviews since his swearing in. He does not lie constantly and brazenly, and he does not tweet incendiary nonsense to distract from his failings. Last month, a senior Biden press aide had to resign for berating a journalist, the sort of behavior that Mr. Trump would have rewarded. All in all, Mr. Biden is proving to be a far more presidential president.

But each of his 15 most recent predecessors, including Mr. Trump, held a full news conference within their first 33 days in office. Mr. Biden has been in office for 46 days. It was only after journalists’ complaints became increasingly loud — and following a wave of bad press — that Ms. Psaki announced Friday that the president would appear for an extended, unaccompanied question-and-answer session with reporters.

Though Mr. Biden regularly answers a smattering of questions after making announcements or other events, Post media critic Erik Wemple points out that these often perfunctory exchanges are no substitute for formal, solo news conferences at which reporters can ask follow-up questions, answers are supposed to be more than a couple of words long, and the president’s thoughts on a wide range of issues can be mined. Mr. Trump’s first news conference gave Americans an early sense of the chaos and indignity that would define his administration, as he ranted about cable news and personal grudges.

Mr. Biden should be eager to advertise his more thoughtful, reality-based approach. He should do so in front of reporters, for extended periods of time, and more often than his late start would suggest.

Read more:

Erik Wemple: When will Biden hold a press conference?

Karen Tumulty: Get ready for reality-grounded White House press briefings

E.J. Dionne Jr.: The crisis Biden can’t duck

Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent: Newsflash: Biden actually is governing in a bipartisan way

Henry Olsen: Biden has finally agreed to slim down stimulus checks. There’s a lot more he could cut.

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