Biden campaign attacks media while playing defense on debate

President Biden’s reelection campaign is attacking the media, saying it is overplaying coverage of Biden’s bad debate performance while not covering positive news for the president.

On a Zoom call with donors Monday evening, Biden’s deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks derided the press directly, saying “the media has spent a ton of time blowing this out of proportion. We are not going to be in a defensive posture on this campaign.”

The campaign also has gone on the attack in fundraising messages to supporters.

“Did you see the awesome clips of our supporters on the tarmac doing the Cupid Shuffle at 2am on the night of the debate?” a Biden fundraising email from over the weekend read. “Well, no, probably not, because the media is busy hyperventilating and trying to manifest drama to boost ratings.”

Biden’s shaky debate performance has raised questions about his viability as the presumptive Democratic nominee. Concerns about the 81-year-old president’s age were apparent before the debate, but his muddled performance against former President Trump has amplified them.

Some of Biden’s former 2020 rivals call for him to drop out

On Tuesday, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (Texas) became the first sitting House Democrat to call on him to step down.

In trying to deflect the criticism, the administration has turned to a familiar foe: the news media.

Criticism of the media began while the debate was still taking place, as some criticized the lack of fact checking from CNN moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash when it came to Trump’s repeated false claims.

Tapper himself pushed back on the campaign’s blame game this week.

“There is a pattern of Democratic officials seemingly trying to convince you, the public, to not believe what you saw and what you heard with your eyes and with your ears,” the anchor said Monday on his daily news show, adding it was not “honest” to dismiss the president’s debate performance as a one-off event, as his top aides have.

Some observers have drawn parallels between team Biden attacking the media in recent days and the long-standing attacks on journalists that have come from his opponent, a strategy that has proven to energize Trump’s base in recent political cycles.

“The most important part of a political fight is contrast,” said one top Democratic strategist. “The press is not popular, and the press is an obvious opponent in the public relations fight.”

But others say such a strategy could be risky and would only lead to more problems for the president’s reelection chances.

“It’s indicative of their weakened position,” said Cayce Myers, a public relations expert who teaches in the school of communications at Virginia Tech. “It’s clearly a deflection mechanism and the media don’t typically respond well to this type of criticism, which in this case is unfounded.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday the administration was merely looking to “turn the page” on the postdebate fallout and defended how it has responded to postdebate media coverage.

“We have a right to push back. It’s a give and take,” she said during a briefing with reporters. “This is an exercise of democracy, if there’s some reporting, we don’t believe it to be true, I don’t see anything wrong with [push back] … if we want to share our side of things, we do so.”

Republican strategist Susan Del Percio, who does not support Trump, said campaigns that are losing often take a hostile approach toward the press.

“It’s what you do when you don’t have anything else,” Del Percio told The Hill.

While many of Trump’s attacks have sought to discredit specific prominent journalists and basic facts about him, the approach taken by those advocating against the press on behalf of Biden has been different.

“Trump tries to discredit the media in their existence as non-truth tellers,” Del Percio said. “But keeping a story alive based on truth and interviews is not the same thing. The media is the easy target … but the Democrats right now are the ones keeping the story alive.”

One Democratic strategist said the media isn’t to blame for what happened on Thursday, “but the media amplification has made it worse.” This strategist, however, said the coverage was “not out of bounds or unwarranted.”

The strategist said that while Biden has generally maintained a good relationship with members of the media during his time in office, he’s always felt “some disrespect” dating back to the previous election cycles when media outlets were writing him off as he struggled to win contests during the Democratic primary.

“He’s never forgotten that,” the strategist said.

There are some signs the White House and Biden’s campaign are still willing to play ball with top media outlets despite the frosty relations.

ABC, which is slated to host the second presidential debate this fall, announced on Tuesday that Biden would sit for a one-on-one interview with anchor George Stephanopoulos that will air over the holiday weekend.

Some observers note it’s a step in the right direction for a campaign that is better served focusing their messaging on issues important to voters rather than grumbling about the tone of the press he is receiving.

“I don’t think it’ll be super effective if he spends the rest of the campaign, assuming he stays in the campaign, making the press an issue,” said Mark Conrad, a professor of law and ethics at Fordham University. “You would think Donald Trump would be the issue for Joe Biden. You’re not voting for the press; you’re voting for a candidate for president.”

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