Joe Biden: The curmudgeon in chief
“What a stupid son of a bitch.”
“What a stupid question.”
“If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business.”
“What the hell, what do you do all the time?”
Those angry, disrespectful remarks directed at reporters didn’t come from the former president, Donald Trump, but from the current president, Joe Biden. Consequently, Biden’s temper became a top-trending topic on Twitter on Monday night after his latest dustup with a White House correspondent.
The 46th president is understandably upset. His Build Back Better bill and the trillions of social spending that went along with it is dead in its current form and his party’s attempt to overhaul election law via a federal takeover also was thwarted — in both cases, by members of his own party. Inflation has climbed to a 40-year high. Crime is spiraling out of control. Russia is thumbing its nose at us while preparing to invade Ukraine without any fear of reprisal.
On Sunday, NBC News’s Chuck Todd shared some devastating results from a new poll conducted by the network. “He’s no longer seen as competent and effective, no longer seen as a good commander-in-chief, or perhaps most damaging, as easy-going and likable,” Todd told his listeners. “In fact, just 5 percent of adults say Mr. Biden has performed better than expected as president, one of the many lowest firsts and fewest in our poll.”
So, it’s no wonder the 79-year-old president gets angry when the press occasionally asks him a fair question. When just 5 percent of the country says you’ve exceeded their expectations, that can’t be easy to absorb.
Things came to a head on Monday afternoon when the president was asked by Fox News’s Peter Doocy about the impact that lasting inflation could have on the Democratic Party’s prospects in the November midterms.
Doocy: “Do you think inflation is a political liability ahead of the midterms?”
Biden: “No, it’s a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch.”
The president later called Doocy to say the remark “was nothing personal.”
In a related story, here’s Biden tweeting in 2020 as a candidate: “Trump deflects legitimate questions with attacks. He bullies members of the press, instead of taking responsibility for his failures. His efforts to undermine public confidence in the integrity of reporting violate our core values and threaten our very system of government.”
Boy, that aged well …
So, what was the reaction from the journalism community after Biden insulted Doocy? After all, these are the same folks who were profoundly outraged when Trump would speak in the same fashion to a reporter.
A check of social media appears to find an opposite reaction – or no reaction at all – this time from Doocy’s fellow journalists.
“To single out an individual reporter in that context is deeply chilling,” said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, when Trump went after Time’s Zeke Miller in 2017 for falsely reporting that a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. had been removed from the Oval Office.
“So Zeke, Zeke from Time magazine, writes the story about what I took down — I would never do that, because I have great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King,” Trump said in response. “But this is how dishonest the media is.”
So, that’s chilling — but Biden directly calling a reporter “a stupid son of a bitch” is not. Check.
Doocy laughed off the president’s insult when appearing on the network later that day with Jesse Watters. “Yeah, nobody has fact-checked him yet and said it’s not true,” Doocy deadpanned.
The reporter would later say on the network that “the world is on the brink of … World War III right now with all of this stuff going on. I appreciate that the president took a couple of minutes out this evening while he was still at his desk to give me a call and clear the air. I don’t need anybody to apologize to me. He can call me whatever he wants as long as it gets him talking!”
This is not the Biden who was billed as a unifier, a person who would not only bring civility back to the White House but who would respect others, especially those in the media.
“If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect or talk down to someone, I promise you, I will fire you on the spot. No ifs ands or buts. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity,” the president told his staff in a Zoom call on day one.
No word on whether the president will fire himself.
In January 2021, President Biden was seen as “likable and easygoing” by 53 percent of the country in an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.
A year later, the same NBC/WSJ poll saw that number drop 15 points, to just 38 percent.
Joe Biden – and, by extension, the country – has an inflation crisis. He called a reporter “a stupid son of a bitch” for asking about it.
Last week, he said a query from another reporter about Russia and Ukraine was a stupid question.
He was supposed to be the POTUS who treats journalists with respect and dignity.
Another promise unkept by the curmudgeon in chief.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist.