Joe Biden’s aides are preventing him from taking questions, according to CNN’s chief national affairs correspondent, who claimed Wednesday night that the president’s advisors are regularly ‘screaming at him to stop’.
Jeff Zeleny spoke on Wednesday after Biden’s much-hyped meeting with Vladimir Putin in Russia.
Biden angrily confronted Zeleny’s CNN colleague Kaitlan Collins, asking her: ‘What the hell?’ when she questioned him about the summit. Biden later apologized, before boarding the plane to leave.
Zeleny said that Biden wanted to set his own narrative after the meeting, saying: ‘We have seen President Biden do that pretty well.’
He continued: ‘What we have not seen him do is answer questions like that without his aides screaming at him to stop.
‘I have never seen a president, covering the last four of them, who was so protected by his aides in terms of often not wanting him to answer some questions.’
CNN’s Jeff Zeleny on Wednesday said that he had never seen a president as controlled by his media advisors as Biden, noting that he had covered Trump, Obama and Bush. Zeleny said that Biden’s aides would ‘scream’ at him to stop talking
Biden on Wednesday afternoon in Geneva turned on a CNN reporter, Kaitlan Collins, who asked him why he was ‘confident’ that Putin would change his ways. Biden angrily replied that he never said he was confident
During the conference, Biden chewed out the press, and specifically CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, shouting in the crowded auditorium: ‘I’m not confident I’ll change his behavior. What do you do all the time?’
Collins is seen bottom right standing up and asking the question. Biden then points his finger at her and gives a heated response
Biden said on Wednesday that he warned Putin that Russian cyber attacks on ‘critical’ U.S. infrastructure would draw a serious American response – and told his counterpart just how harmful a cyber attack might be on an oil pipeline that is the lifeline of the Russian economy.
Biden threatened retaliation and made his explicit comment publicly – even as he denied making any kind of a ‘threat’ in his meetings with the Russian president – as they discussed ransomware attacks that shut down the Colonial pipeline and has other U.S. and multinational businesses on edge.
His cyber saber rattling came during a contentious press conference where he also shouted at a CNN reporter who yelled out a question asking why he was so confident the Russian strongman would change his behavior, given his denials and his history.
‘I’m not confident I’ll change his behavior. What do you do all the time?’ he said.
The president later apologized to Collins, saying he should not have been a ‘wise guy’
Biden walked up to the reporter, with his suit jacket off on an unusually hot day, and accused her of not knowing her business – gesticulating while holding his Ray-Ban sunglasses.
‘When did I say I was confident? I said … What I said was – let’s get it straight,’ Biden said.
‘I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world.
‘I’m not confident of anything. I’m just stating the facts.’
Minutes after the tense exchange, Biden sought to clean up the incident, speaking with traveling reporters under the wing of Air Force One.
‘I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy with the last answer I gave,’ Biden said.
The reporter Biden berated, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, said on air she was ‘just doing my job’ and said Biden didn’t need to apologize.
She called it ‘completely unnecessary’ and said ‘he did not have to apologize, though I do appreciate that he did.’
Biden has frequently raised eyebrows with suggestions that he is being ‘controlled’ by his press advisors.
President Joe Biden (C) poses with US staff members, preparing departing the airport, after the US-Russia summit in Geneva on June 16, 2021
Biden is known for his folksy style of speaking, and of frequently worrying aides by freewheeling with his answers – straying at times from their highly-restrictive script
Joe Biden on Sunday held a press conference in the United Kingdom at the end of the G7 summit. The president’s team had made preparations for him to take questions from five media outlets – AP, Bloomberg, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and NBC News. He joked that he could not stray from their list
During a G7 summit press conference on Sunday, he joked he shouldn’t be answering extra press questions or he will ‘get in trouble’ with his staff.
Biden spoke for 12 minutes to sum up the meeting, held in the United Kingdom.
‘Now, why don’t I take some of your questions?’ he said at the end of his remarks.
After fielding a question from the Associated Press on his plans for meeting President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday in Geneva, he turned to a Bloomberg reporter for his second question.
‘I’m sorry, I’m going to get in trouble with staff if I don’t do this the right way,’ he said, then calling on Jennifer Jacobs of Bloomberg.
He took further questions from Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and, as his final question, NBC News.
Yet as he began to walk away, more questions were shouted at him.
‘I’m going to get in trouble with my staff,’ he said, turning back to the press pack. ‘Yeah, go ahead. But I can pretend that I didn’t answer you.’
During the press conference he also mixed up Syria and Libya.
‘I’m hopeful that we can find an accommodation where we can save the lives of people in — for example, in — in Libya,’ the president said, mentioning the north African country for the third time instead of Syria, which is in the Middle East.
The White House later brushed the confusion off, confirming that it was indeed, Syria, the country where Russia and the US have been involved in a decade-long civil war, which the president was referring to.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said last month that she does encourage Biden to limit his responses to journalists’ questions
The exchange bore echoes of a similar encounter last month at the White House.
Biden, following a series of meetings on the COVID-19 vaccine and infrastructure, chatted to the press before remarking: ‘I’m not supposed to be answering all these questions.’
His remarks have given fuel to right-wing critics, who accuse Biden of being senile and being controlled by minders. Sean Hannity, the Fox News host, has nicknamed him ‘Sippy Cup’, saying that he needs treating like a child.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said that she frequently urged the 78-year-old to refrain from chatting with the media and taking questions.
‘He takes questions nearly every day he’s out from the press,’ Psaki said on a podcast in May.
‘That is not something we recommend. In fact, a lot of times, we say, ‘Don’t take questions.’
‘But he’s going to do what he wants to do because he’s the president of the United States.’