Bizarre Set Up for Biden’s First Presser Shows White House Using Covid as an Excuse to Shield President From Reporters


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After much media handwringing, the White House press corps will finally get their shot to question President Joe Biden in a formal setting on Thursday. But based on the room setup, some of them might a megaphone to do it.

Meghan Hays, the White House director of message planning, tweeted out a photo, Thursday morning, of the socially-distanced set up in the East Room ahead of the afternoon news conference.

The message planning director’s apparent message? Bring binoculars.

As you can see in the photo above, the chairs appear to be spaced much farther apart than the CDC-recommended six feet. As a result, only 25 reporters will be admitted to the session. And those that are allowed in will be asking their questions from a mile away — a proximity which is hardly conducive for pointed follow-ups.

While coronavirus safeguard measures are always laudable, the problem with this bizarre room setup is that it is so clearly performative. This type of distancing is not maintained in the briefing room on a daily basis for press secretary Jen Psaki’s sessions. Even with capacity in the Brady briefing room dramatically reduced, reporters are routinely placed much, much closer to each other than the distance at which they will be kept on Thursday afternoon. If the distancing in that room is good enough for Psaki, it ought to be good enough for Biden.

Further, if the White House was truly prioritizing safety, there is no reason not to hold the event outside. According to the forecast from, it will be 64 degrees at the time of the press conference, with only a minimal chance of rain. That temperature is more than sufficient for a Rose Garden gathering.

Much has been made of the president’s aversion to the media during his first few months in office. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has been among the most vocal critics — calling out the White House in a March 19 Fox News radio appearance for keeping Biden “highly sheltered.”

“This president, and clearly his staff, are not comfortable putting him out there too often,” Wallace said.

Thursday’s press conference shows otherwise — that the White House is indeed willing to put Joe Biden out there. At least, as long as the press corps is kept way, way, way out there.


Joe DePaolo is a Senior Editor for Mediaite.

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

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Joe DePaolo is a Senior Editor at Mediaite. Email him here: Follow him on Twitter: @joe_depaolo