White House Provided the Questions in Advance for Biden’s Radio Interviews

The questions asked of President Biden by two radio interviewers this week were provided in advance to the hosts by Mr. Biden’s aides at the White House, one of the hosts said Saturday morning on CNN.

Andrea Lawful-Sanders, the host of “The Source” on WURD in Philadelphia, said White House officials provided her with a list of eight questions ahead of the interview on Wednesday.

“The questions were sent to me for approval; I approved of them,” she told Victor Blackwell, the host of “First of All” on CNN. Asked if it was the White House that sent the questions to her in advance, she said it was.

“I got several questions — eight of them,” she said. “And the four that were chosen were the ones that I approved.”

Lauren Hitt, a spokeswoman for the Biden campaign, said it is “not uncommon” for the campaign to share preferred topics, but added that officials “do not condition interviews on acceptance of these questions” by the interviewer.

“Hosts are always free to ask the questions they think will best inform their listeners,” she said. “In addition to these interviews, the president also participated in a press gaggle yesterday as well as an interview with ABC. Americans have had several opportunities to see him unscripted since the debate.”

Mr. Biden’s campaign had scheduled interviews with the hosts of two radio programs with large Black followings as part of a broader effort to reassure Americans of his mental fitness after his disastrous debate performance in Atlanta that raised deep concerns among many Democrats.

In a later interview with ABC News on Friday, the president appeared to refer to his exchanges with the Black radio hosts as among the evidence that he could handle the rigors of the campaign, citing what he said were “10 major events in a row” that he participated in since the debate.

No one in the president’s re-election campaign or at the White House revealed ahead of time that the questions were provided to the Black hosts, a practice that is widely rejected as inappropriate by journalists, especially in coverage of a politician. And yet, despite knowing the questions in advance, Mr. Biden still stumbled over some of them.

In the interview with Ms. Lawful-Sanders, Mr. Biden stumbled over his words, at one point saying that he was proud to have been “the first Black woman to serve with a Black president.”

During his appearance on “The Earl Ingram Show” on WMCS in Milwaukee, Mr. Biden responded to a question about why voting matters with a halting and sometimes confusing answer.

“That’s where we always — we gave Donald Trump executive — a power to to use a system — and it’s just never contemplated by our founders because of the people he appointed to the court,” he said, appearing to stutter several times, a condition he has struggled with since he was a child. “It’s just presidential immunity. He can say that I did this in my capacity as an executive, it may have been wrong, but I did it. But that’s going to hold — because I — and this is the same guy who says that he wants to enact revenge.”

Mr. Blackwell, interviewing the two radio hosts Saturday morning, appeared surprised by the answer about the preapproved questions.

He had asked Ms. Lawful-Sanders about her four questions because he said he had noticed that they were almost identical to the four that Mr. Ingram had asked in his interview with Mr. Biden the same day.

Mr. Ingram, who was on Mr. Blackwell’s show with Ms. Lawful-Sanders, did not dispute her description of how the questions were selected.

“The reason I ask is not a criticism of either of you,” Mr. Blackwell told the two anchors. “It’s just that if the White House is trying now to prove the vim, vigor, acuity of the president, I don’t know how they do that by sending questions first, before the interviews, so that the president knows what’s coming.”

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