From Breitbart to Miller: Here’s how Trump’s MAGA circle responded to Biden’s first press conference

‘Storytime with Uncle Joe’ and a press performance ‘that would make Chinese state-run outlets blush’

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Thursday 25 March 2021 22:11 GMT
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Whether they followed along live on Twitter or spared their thoughts for when it wrapped up, former Trump administration figures, MAGA faithful, and stalwarts of right-wing media had something to say about Joe Biden’s first official presidential press conference.

Most called out what they claimed were falsehoods, continued to question the president’s mental acumen and age, and defended their own records, while decrying a media that “would make Chinese state-run outlets blush”.

The initial and more measured reactions came via Fox News, despite being quick to complain that their correspondent Peter Doocy was not called on to ask a question.

Veteran Washington reporter Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday, was first to analyse the president’s performance on air.

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Noting that for foreign policy questions, in particular, Mr Biden consulted notes in a briefing book as one would expect of a press secretary, Mr Wallace noted that covering Ronald Reagan for six years he never saw that and could not recall any other president’s doing the same.

Mr Wallace otherwise said that Mr Biden had been “empathetic”, held himself well, and understood and had control of his brief, though delivered his answers slowly.

Dana Perino, former George W Bush press secretary and Fox News contributor, said that by not taking a question from Mr Doocy, the White House has made him a story, and that the president could have provided good answers to questions on the topics that he had prepared.

Ms Perino said she thought the president could have announced a bigger piece of news at the beginning to set the tone. She felt his worst answer was regarding children at the border – which dominated some of the reactions from Trump administration officials.

“I think he did fine, and fine was all they needed,” Ms Perino said. “Because if you were bored watching that … compared to the previous president, that’s exactly what Joe Biden wants.”

News anchor Bret Baier also said that he couldn’t recall a president appearing with a briefing book and reading answers.

Mr Baier was first to note the president’s occasional trip into a “rhetorical cul-de-sac” which then saw him “punt” the answer he was giving – as was seen on the 2020 campaign trail. Overall he too felt that Mr Biden did “fine”.

Breitbart News was a little more focused on the occasions in which Mr Biden flubbed an answer – specifically one on the filibuster, tweeting a clip and transcript: “So the best way to get something done, if you – if you hold near and dear to you, that you, uh – um, like to be able – anyway. I, we’re ready to get a lot done.”

Sean Hannity of Fox News also posted about Mr Biden’s “three-minute rant about filibuster” before stopping mid-sentence.

Fox News Host Laura Ingraham joined those questioning why the president was consulting notes, tweeting: “Why does Biden need to read his answers?”

She later added: “As bad as the Biden ‘unimpressed’ conference was, imagine if some White House staffer had left the wrong papers on the lectern…”

Describing the event as “Storytime with Uncle Joe” and saying the press was “fine with it”, she called out the lack of action from Biden on China and said his “lies on immigration alone were staggering”.

Among Trump White House staffers watching, former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany tweeted: “Right out of the gate, the White House press corps stands for President Biden.”

She continued: “Would have been nice if they would have routinely shown that level of respect for President Trump.  I hope this is not indicative of softball questions to come!”

Focusing on the questions on immigration, Ms McEnany said that the president’s answers should be fact-checked as “false” adding that his answers on journalists having access to border facilities were “confusing and unacceptable”.

Ms McEnany summarised her thoughts in an op-ed for Fox News titled: “Biden’s first press conference leaves Americans with many more questions than answers.”

Stephen Miller, former senior adviser to Donald Trump, attempted to defend the previous administration’s record on migrants while firing a salvo at the decisions made by Biden at the border regarding unaccompanied minors.

He described a response Mr Biden gave as a “monstrous lie”, which won praise from Ms McEnany, but led one Twitter user to respond “‘Monstrous’. Interesting choice of words from you of all people” referring to his own history regarding border policy and family separation.

Fellow senior Trump adviser Jason Miller decried the “pre-screened reporters”, “blatant falsehood” of some answers, and seemed not to get that Mr Biden was making a joke when he said that he came to the Senate 120 years ago.

Mr Miller himself joked that Vice President Kamala Harris chuckled when the president said he was running again in 2024. He also retweeted Rep Lauren Boebert who quoted Mr Biden’s quip about missing his predecessor, adding the word “SAME”.

Meanwhile, in the Trump family, Donald Trump Jr wrote:  “Nothing on economy or schools but Biden opened up his “presser” taking credit for 45’s vaccine strategy. This guy lives in an entirely different universe. What’s happening to our children is literally an active hostage situation at this point.”

Mr Trump Jr had retweeted campaign and White House alum Kaelen Dorr, who wrote: “No Doocy, nothing on reopening our economy, nothing on why our children aren’t in school. A hollow display of gaslighting and a performance from the media that would make Chinese state-run outlets blush.”

He added: “I’m sad for our country.”

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