Staffers in President Joe Biden’s White House are struggling to control public messaging and gain ground in the media amid internal dysfunction, according to a CNN report.
Tensions have arisen between older staffers and younger aides over media strategies, and staff believe they are unable to improve Biden’s public image or change their strategy, according to CNN. Staffers described conflict and frustration within the White House over their inability to put forward an effective communications strategy, CNN reported, citing multiple anonymous staff members.
Biden’s public approval rating has steadily declined throughout his time in office, falling from 55% on the day of his inauguration to 42% June 1, hitting a low of 36% May 24, according to Reuters.
“there’s a divide between most of the White House staff and the inner circle who have been around Biden for longer than most of the rest of that staff has been alive.”
via @IsaacDovere https://t.co/wLhog2X0cJ
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) June 2, 2022
White House aides told CNN Biden isn’t breaking through in the media because his public appearances are limited by Secret Service and fears about him catching COVID-19. Biden is usually hidden from sight in the White House or his Delaware beach house; when he does interact with voters, it’s during brief and in heavily-scripted visits.
Staffers also blamed a series of crises for constantly putting Biden on defense, such as inflation, the war in Ukraine, COVID-19 and the baby formula shortage.
“He has to speak to very serious things,” one White House aide said, according to CNN, “and you can’t do that getting ice cream.”
The problem is exacerbated by a dysfunctional work environment, staffers told CNN. Many White House aides began their jobs remotely and are now struggling to work together effectively, and tensions have arisen between young staffers and Biden’s older inner circle about media strategies, according to CNN. Older staffers, much like Biden, prefer to focus their energies on legacy media outlets.
“These numbers that get put up by ‘soft media,’ … don’t feel as real,” a senior adviser told staff, referring to newer media outlets.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates denied the characterizations in CNN’s report.
“That is not the dynamic in the White House,” Bates told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The President has a well-rounded strategy that combines putting unprecedented resources into digital engagement, speeches that provide many of his most powerful moments, and person-to-person interactions that showcase important qualities like his empathy.”
However, staffers are reportedly divided on how to implement that strategy, according to CNN.
Aides can’t decide how best to portray Biden to the American people, according to CNN. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain suggested having Biden do a town hall each month to garner unscripted media moments in a January memo, according to CNN, but staffers complained about logistics and called the idea old-fashioned and, in the end, the town halls never happened.
Staffers frequently meet to discuss the need for a completely different public relations strategy, but little ever changes, according to CNN.
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