Resolute Square

How Many Times Must The Media Get It Wrong?

At a time when our democracy is being threatened by Republicans daily and is more fragile than ever before, media outlets must more fully and accurately report on the Biden Administration, writes Victor Shi.
Published:June 8, 2023

By Victor Shi

I remember being at the 2020 Iowa Caucuses and the media narratives around then-candidate Joe Biden. Nearly every outlet wrote him off. Journalists and the media thought he was too old, thought he was out of touch, and thought he could never clinch the nomination and become president. But, as we all know now, they were wrong — and by a lot. 

One might think that after Joe Biden not only secured his party’s nomination but went on to be elected president — against all odds — that the media would think twice before questioning President Biden. One might think that after President Biden defied expectations for so long that the media would start focusing on Joe Biden’s experience and ability to pull through and get things done. But that is far from the case — and it must change. 

More than two years into his presidency, it’s clear President Biden will go down as one of the most significant and consequential presidents in history. Take, for instance, a few of the things he has accomplished so far. First, he made infrastructure week a reality by passing a bill that makes historic private sector and infrastructure investments. Then, he passed two consequential bills that would boost manufacturing and jobs at home through the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. President Biden has also overseen unprecedented job creation, appointed the most judges to the federal bench of any president at this point in their term, and passed a bipartisan, commonsense gun reform policy. 

And if all that is not enough, last week, President Biden averted what could have resulted in one of the worst economic downturns in history after Republicans nearly sent our nation into default on our debt. Biden met with lawmakers, held a steady hand, and reached a bipartisan agreement with Republicans to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default. While some may criticize him for ceding ground, economists say the President got most of what he wanted while avoiding many of the Republican damaging wishlist items, including cutting veterans’ benefits and working-class programs. 

But even after accomplishing so much, cable news outlets continue to broadcast a much different portrayal of the Biden administration. Little of the coverage around President Biden has focused on his accomplishments or his ability to get things done with a Republican-controlled House and a razor-thin majority in the Senate. Instead, coverage has focused on his age, negative polls, and his occasional missteps while underselling his accomplishments and continuing to underestimate his ability to get things done. 

It is time that stops. 

At a time when our democracy is being threatened by Republicans daily and is more fragile than ever before, media outlets must more fully and accurately report on the Biden Administration. And it starts by focusing on the things that actually matter — most importantly, his record — and stops focusing on things like his age or polling. 

To be sure, while old age does come with some concerns, there is no justification for the endless coverage — especially given the fact that his predecessor and likely general election opponent — who faces multiple potential indictments and has already been found liable for sexual assault is not much younger. Lest one forgets, earlier this year, President Biden made an unannounced trip to Ukraine, immediately visited President Zelenskyy on a battlefield, and then hopped on a train to Poland where he spoke in front of thousands of people.

Even the small things – from biking to staying after events to shaking hands – demonstrate that this is a president who still has energy, charisma, and stamina. In fact, a recent New York Times piece reported that “when Italy’s new leader pushed for a meeting while the president was in Poland, he readily agreed to add it to the already packed schedule.” The article continued, “During a trip to Ireland, people with him said he was energized and wanted to talk at length on Air Force One Rather than rest.” These are the parts of President Biden’s life that the media either miss or all too frequently ignore. But they matter and show the American people a lot about President Biden's capacity to serve our nation effectively. 

Perhaps Biden could spend more time patting himself on the back in front of the cameras instead of working for the American people, but that’s not who he is. Despite this, President Biden has proven the media’s dire predictions wrong. He prevented a red wave. He has passed major pieces of legislation. He has delivered for the American people on a consistent basis. 

It’s long overdue that the media stop underestimating President Biden and start covering the real, positive impact he is having on Americans’ lives. Viewers – and our democracy – deserve no less.