The Corner


Biden Doesn’t Have a Perception Problem, He Has a Reality Problem

President Joe Biden looks on after delivering remarks on the November jobs report at the White House in Washington, D.C., December 3, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

A lot of conservatives are up in arms about this revelation from CNN’s Oliver Darcy:

The White House, not happy with the news media’s coverage of the supply chain and economy, has been working behind the scenes trying to reshape coverage in its favor. Senior White House and admin officials — including NEC Deputy Directors David Kamin and Bharat Ramamurti, along with Ports Envoy John Porcari — have been briefing major newsrooms over the past week, a source tells me.

The officials have been discussing with newsrooms trends pertaining to job creation, economic growth, supply chains, and more. The basic argument that has been made: That the country’s economy is in much better shape than it was last year. I’m told the conversations have been productive, with anchors and reporters and producers getting to talk with the officials

The thing is, all kinds of institutions and organizations arrange off-the-record or on-background briefings and meetings for reporters. There’s nothing inherently unethical or manipulative about them. The sources from the institutions effectively say, “here’s how we see things,” and usually some variation of, “and we don’t think this has been covered enough.” The reporters usually get to ask questions – if there isn’t a chance to ask questions, it makes one wonder what the point of the briefing is.

How this meeting affects subsequent coverage is up to the reporter. Maybe the reporter thought the briefer had a fair complaint or made a good point. Or maybe the briefing shared new information that the reporter thought was newsworthy. Maybe the reporter thinks the briefing was unconvincing spin and a lot of whining. Or maybe the reporter wasn’t persuaded much one way or another. It only becomes unethical or manipulative when the official says, “you should be covering the story this way,” and the reporter effectively answers, “yes, sir.” That’s the only scenario where the complaints of “state-run media” have merit.

Perhaps the more significant aspect of this story is not just that the Biden administration thinks the country’s economy is in much better shape than it was last year — a pretty low bar, considering how one year ago, we were just about to get the first vaccinations — but they think that they have a perception problem, not a substance or reality problem. But the national average for a gallon of gasoline is still $3.43, inflation has skyrocketed this year, the country has 10.4 million unfilled jobs, and all kinds of small businesses have signs that say “please be patient, we’re understaffed,” and we’re enduring a supply chain crisis. (If you’re not reading Dominic Pino’s coverage here at NR, you should be.) Americans don’t think the economy is lousy because of bad media coverage. Americans think the economy is lousy because they feel the pain in the form of higher prices and stores not having the goods on the shelves that they usually have.

You cannot spin someone about their grocery bill, or how much they paid to fill up their tank of gas. Even if Biden administration officials can Jedi Mind Trick their way into getting reporters to give gushing coverage of their economic policies, Americans will not come around if they’re still paying more than $3 per gallon of gas, their grocery bills are significantly higher than last year, new cars aren’t on the lots, bottles and cans aren’t on the store shelves, service is slow, and local businesses are limiting hours or even contemplating shutting down because of limited supplies.


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