Sunday, March 26, 2023

White House and Fox Corp at odds over Biden Super Bowl interview


The White House appeared to be at odds with Fox Corporation, the parent company of Fox News Channel, over whether President Biden would sit for the traditional pre-Super Bowl interview with the broadcaster of the big game.

With just days to go, there was still no formal confirmation of an interview by Friday, and Fox News officials had begun to assume that Biden would take a pass. The game this year is airing on Fox’s broadcast channel, and by standard practice, the interview would be conducted by the company’s news division.

But late Friday morning, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed that Fox Corporation had canceled a previously unreported interview of Biden by Fox Soul, a lesser-known streaming channel within the conglomerate that targets a predominantly Black audience.

“The President was looking forward to an interview with Fox Soul to discuss the Super Bowl, the State of the Union, and critical issues impacting the everyday lives of Black Americans,” Jean-Pierre wrote. “We’ve been informed that Fox Corp has asked for the interview to be canceled.”

Fox Corporation and Fox News Channel have not commented on Jean-Pierre’s tweet, which seemed to take some corners of the company by surprise. A White House official with knowledge of the situation said that Biden would have been interviewed by Fox Sports host Mike Hill and the actress Vivica A. Fox.

Fox News had pitched Biden on sitting for an interview that would be air during the Super Bowl’s pregame special, a tradition that has been followed almost without exception by the last few administrations. The conservative-leaning network considered top anchors Bret Baier, the host of a 6 p.m. news show, and Shannon Bream, host of “Fox News Sunday,” as potential interviewers, but received no confirmation from the White House.

“We offered an interview with our top news anchors with no strings attached,” a Fox News executive familiar with the discussions told The Washington Post. “They walked away from a huge audience, and it’s a major missed opportunity.”

Prominent Democrats have been split on whether Biden should take Fox News up on the offer, with some arguing that Fox’s broadcast of the game provides a massive potential audience for the president to reach (the game averaged 99.2 million viewers on NBC last year), while others felt that giving an interview to a Fox News journalist would open the president to unfair questioning.

“Democrats should strive to reach all audiences, but a presidential interview with today’s Fox is nothing more than creating your own ambush,” said Eric Schultz, a deputy press secretary under President Obama, who famously sat for grillings in 2011 and 2014 by Bill O’Reilly, then Fox News’s top host.

Donna Brazile, the former acting chair of the Democratic National Committee and a one-time Fox News contributor, said that some regular Fox viewers would likely turn off the channel for a Biden interview while others might give him a chance. “Personally, the same president who had the GOP standing up for Social Security and Medicare at the State of the Union should have been willing to spend a few minutes talking football, music, the economy and more with Fox viewers,” she said in an email.

Biden had granted Super Bowl interviews for the first two years of his presidency, sitting with “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell in 2021 and “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt last year.

In 2018, then-President Trump opted against sitting for an interview with Holt, despite NBC broadcasting the game.

This story has been updated to include the names of the hosts who would have interviewed President Biden for Fox Soul.

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