Summary List Placement
During President Joe Biden’s first solo press conference since taking office in January, not a single reporter asked a question about the coronavirus pandemic — a notable omission as the country country continues to see tens of thousands of new cases each day.
But Americans tuning in to the hour-long conference still received an update on the state of the nation’s vaccine rollout.
Biden began the conference by discussing vaccinations and other “top priorities for the American people,” like reopening schools, stimulus checks, and pandemic-related unemployment.
He said the administration had reached its goal of 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days last week, more than 40 days ahead of schedule. As a result, he announced an updated vaccination goal: 200 million shots in his first 100 days.
“I know it’s ambitious,” he said. “I believe we can do it.”
As he opened the floor for questions from reporters, the conversation quickly steered away from COVID-19.
After the hour was over, social media began to ignite with criticism over the glaring COVID-question exclusions from the White House Press Corps.
Political commentator and podcaster Tommy Vietor tweeted that the shortage of pandemic questions was a “ridiculous failure” to focus on the issues that Americans care about more.
Not one question at that press conference about covid. What a ridiculous failure by the press corps to focus on the issue that the vast majority of Americans care about most.
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) March 25, 2021
White house Chief of Staff Ronald Klein retweeted a number of tweets noting the absence immediately following the press conference.
First Biden news conference: Not a single question about the pandemic.
— LenaSun (@bylenasun) March 25, 2021
New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg said in a tweet that the slew of non-COVID questions suggest “coronavirus is no longer Topic A.”
Klein responded: “Pretty sure it is for the American people and the Biden WH.”
Pretty sure it is for the American people and the Biden WH. https://t.co/5VUMmklepb
— Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) March 25, 2021
Kate Brennan, editorial director at Just Security, encouraged Twitter users to share the COVID-19 questions they would have asked Biden given the opportunity.
I’ll go first:
How worried are you about the new variants?
When do you expect life to resemble pre-pandemic days?
Because COVID is seasonal, could some public health measures be ramped up again next winter?
— Kate Brannen (@K8brannen) March 25, 2021
Some were quick to note that the growing criticism directed at reporters for failing to ask pandemic-related questions is likely a political positive for Biden.
A presser where the most chattered about topic on Twitter afterward is what wasn’t asked by reporters rather than what the president actually said is a successful one for Biden politically. https://t.co/zQ4WFEZu3E
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) March 25, 2021
Others, still, suggested the absence of coronavirus questions was proof of Biden’s success thus far in handing the country’s COVID-19 response. The news that the administration has handily met its vaccination goal ahead of schedule perhaps signaled to reporters there was no need to press the president on the subject.
Surest sign that @POTUS’s handling of the GLOBAL PANDEMIC – that continues to dominate every Americans’ life – is going well is that he DID NOT GET ONE QUESTION ABOUT IT.
— Jennifer Palmieri (@jmpalmieri) March 25, 2021
COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations have been trending downward since the deadly spike seen this winter. As vaccinations continue to increase and the weather starts to get nicer, scientists and public health officials have predicted a return to some version of normalcy this summer.
And yet, the country is still averaging about 1,000 deaths a day and case counts remain high in the Northeast and Midwest. Millions of Americans are still unemployed and many children are still learning online. More than a year in to the pandemic, coronavirus is undoubtedly, still the dominant issue impacting Americans.