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Amid multiple crises, Biden runs to NBC’s safe space with Jimmy Fallon

Ralph Bavaro/NBC via AP
In this photo provided by NBC, President Joe Biden is shown on a screen during a virtual interview with host Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, in New York.

President Biden made his debut on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon on Friday night, which went exactly as expected for the embattled commander in chief.

Fallon did his job for Biden, which was to offer the president a friendly national platform without challenging him in any capacity.  

At one point during the interview, Fallon allowed Biden to repeat his ludicrous claim regarding his proposed multi-trillion-dollar “Build Back Better” spending bill, which Biden still insists will cost “zero dollars.” The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said otherwise this week in estimating that it will add $3 trillion to the deficit. Yet here’s Biden pushing this blatant misinformation, because he knows he can, given the format, the host and the network.

At another point, Fallon cheered the president on, telling him, “You gotta keep your head down and keep doing the right thing,” while adding that he’s “bringing class back to the presidency.” Rachel Maddow or Joy Behar couldn’t have said it better.

The president also seemed to claim he was once in the “mid-60s” on approval (not even close) and is currently in “the mid-40s” (if 42 percent in the RealClearPolitics average is considered “mid-40s”).

Attaboys and cheerleading aren’t exactly the stuff of compelling television, however, so it’s no surprise that fewer than 2 million people tuned in, according to early numbers from Nielsen Media Research. A decent bump for Fallon, who usually finishes third behind Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld and CBS’s Stephen Colbert.

But for historical context, Johnny Carson used to regularly attract more than 6 million viewers to “The Tonight Show,” while successor Jay Leno delivered 4.5 million. For more context, Fallon’s 2015 interview with Donald Trump took in 4.5 million viewers, or well more than double Biden’s Friday night appearance. 

Regardless of the numbers, was this the right venue at the right time for the 46th president?

In January, we were told by more than a few in the media that when this administration took office, the adults would be back in charge. But on a day when it was announced that inflation had reached a 39-year high, the president didn’t hold a press conference or sit down with an objective journalist to face accountability or relevant questions. He ran to a friendly late-night comedy host instead.

This helps him avoid any real questions on inflation and the economy, gas prices, falling wages, skyrocketing crime, the border crisis, COVID-19, the Afghan debacle and education.

The president is polling underwater on all of these issues. Biden is also well underwater in battleground states he won in 2020, including Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

A recent I&I/TIPP Poll of Americans’ preference for the 2024 Democratic presidential ballot showed just 22 percent of Democrats want Biden to run again. Imagine that: The guy who got more votes than any presidential candidate in history can barely get more than one-in-five voters in his own party to support him for a second term. Just stunning.

We have serious problems. And we need serious people to solve them. The president’s handlers don’t seem to understand that going on Fallon for yuks looks tone deaf. In a related story, a study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University shows that Colbert and Fallon made Donald Trump the punchline of 97 percent of their jokes leading up to the last presidential election in September 2020. And it’s not like Biden doesn’t provide his share of material.

Some Democrats are now plotting their escape from Biden, per Politico. His Build Back Better plan in its current form is on life support, with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) citing the illogic of adding trillions in new spending at a time when inflation is already at its highest level in four decades.

Biden is doing himself no favors with appearances like this at a time like this. But like on some many other fronts, don’t expect a change in communication strategy anytime soon, if ever.

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.

Tags Biden Build Back Better plan Donald Trump Jimmy Fallon Joe Biden Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign Joe Manchin Joy Behar leftwing media bias Presidency of Joe Biden Presidency of the United States Rachel Maddow Stephen Colbert

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