Andrea Mitchell Gets Blasted for Saying Biden Wasn’t Transparent About Foot Injury He Was Totally Transparent About


MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell faced backlash when she accused President-elect Joe Biden of not being “forthcoming” about a foot injury he sustained over the weekend, a backlash that made Mitchell a top trending topic on Twitter.

On Monday’s edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports, the host was very concerned about the president-elect’s injury, sustained Saturday while playing with his dog Major Biden. Well, not so much the injury itself.

“Turning back to the president-elect and the injury he suffered Sunday, it was also notable, you know, he fell playing with his dog Major, we are told on Saturday, it wasn’t until Sunday that the White House pool knew that he was going somewhere, and then it turned out to be a doctor for an x-ray and then they needed more imaging, so CT scans, they weren’t as forthcoming as you would hope they would be with the press pool that’s supposed to cover him,” Mitchell said.

That’s news to the rest of the world, including no less a chronic Resistance Twitter target than CNN’s Chris Cillizza, who praised the Biden team’s transparency about the injury.

The comments blew up, mainly because I blew them up, and thousands of Twitter users — including a few other journalists — lambasted Mitchell. Here’s a small but representative sample.

Mitchell did have a few defenders, but tellingly, none of whom disputed the ridiculousness of this particular bit of reporting.

Yahoo! News reporter Hunter Walker defended Mitchell in a mini-thread on the basis of her (not in dispute) hustle, but acknowledged at least the potential legitimacy of the specific criticism.

Andrea Mitchell is unquestionably a legend and a pioneer in journalism, which makes this defense a handy analogy for the challenge facing the press. No matter how many worse journalists there are, or how accomplished a particular journalist, the public has a right to ask them to do better.

Conversely, no matter how much better and more transparent and less of a human disaster Joe Biden is than outgoing President Donald Trump, the public and the press have the right to ask him and his administration to do better.

The problem here is that Biden could hardly have been more transparent. True, the dog-playing wasn’t open-press, so the sudden canonical stop was not captured in pool reports or on camera. And apparently, the injury did not appear sufficiently serious to warrant medical attention or a bulletin at first. These two problems are difficult to remedy, but perhaps Major and Champ could be fitted with live streaming GoPro helmets, and Biden could audit some orthopedic seminars to learn rudimentary self-diagnosis.

But once the decision was made for the president-elect to seek medical attention, the news was reported in detail, in real-time, by Biden’s staff. And as previously noted, there was even footage of him at the doctor’s office.

Okay, so there were x-ray results, and then CT results, but what color was his sputum? Why no cameras in the radiology suite?

PBS White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor raised another (slightly less-ridiculous) incident during that Andrea Mitchell segment, in which Biden appeared to have maybe ditched his press pool for the trip to church the previous weekend. What had happened was, the pool didn’t get enough notice for the departure, so their bus was still getting swept when the Biden motorcade left for the church.

They still got to cover the church visit, but they had a legitimate gripe. Maybe it was an unavoidable scheduling snafu, or maybe Biden just wanted to be able to walk past his son’s grave without people screaming questions at him. A human impulse that a reasonable journalist could acknowledge, while also reminding him that getting screamed at by reporters is part of the job. You know, like this:

And while an observer could criticize that trollish gotcha question as a dishonest and harmful attempt to undermine and oversimplify life-saving public health advice in order to falsely portray one of its leading advocates and practitioners as hypocritical, that’s part of the job. I’ve always believed that a terrible question is really just an opportunity to give a terrific answer.

But the reaction to that maybe-slight/maybe tiny and honest snafu was a-ridiculous.

Having covered the White House for 9 years, I’m well-versed in the frustration involved in trying to gain as much access as possible. But like many of the irate tweeters in the Mitchell pile-on, I remember how the press would jump all over President Barack Obama for minor things like not having access to something minor like a pickup basketball game, and less-minor things like a feud with Fox News over an interview with a Treasury Department official.

And it is natural for the public to expect that the press would cut Biden some slack after his predecessor’s relentless attacks literally inspired a guy to send pipe bombs. Maybe that could be a sort of disclaimer that could be added to these sorts of criticisms: “While he hasn’t inspired any literal terrorist attacks against us, President-elect Biden did ditch us for 5 minutes to drive to church.”

Trump’s behavior should absolutely not be the yardstick against which President Biden should be measured. But for the sake of their own credibility, journalists should find a way to attenuate their criticism to the post-Trump reality — or in the case of Foot-gate, just to reality.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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