WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s decision to break a recent tradition of showing up for an interview with the Super Bowl news network came after a series of discussions between Fox and White House officials.
Fox proposed that one of its news anchors, such as Bret Baier or Shannon Bream, conduct the interview, a person familiar with the matter said, but the president’s team rejected those options, deciding about 72 hours before kickoff that Biden would do the interview. . with the network’s little-known streaming channel, Fox Soul.
The tug-of-war came into public view Friday morning when the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted that Fox Corp. had canceled the Fox Soul interview. Several hours later, Fox Corp. released a statement saying there had been “confusion” with the White House, and that the Fox Soul interview had returned to normal with actress Vivica A. Fox, host of “Cocktails with Queens.” by Fox Soul. and “Fox Soul’s Screening Room,” as well as Mike Hill, a Fox Soul personality and contributor and sportscaster for Fox Sports.
The White House saw things differently.
“As we previously stated, we had arranged an interview with FOX Sports Host Mike Hill and Vivica A. Fox with the President before the Super Bowl and Fox Corp has canceled the interview,” a White House official said in a statement to NBC News. . later on Friday. “FOX has since issued a statement indicating that the interview was rescheduled, which is inaccurate.”
The disagreement over an interview that typically lasts about 10 minutes and airs as millions of Americans tune in to what is often the most-watched television event of the year suggests that simmering tensions between the Biden White House and Fox may be reaching new heights.
Biden has conducted interviews with multiple television networks that cover the White House: ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC and, just this week, PBS, but not Fox News. She previously participated in Super Bowl interviews with newscasters from CBS and NBC when the networks introduced the game in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
This year, Hill and Vivica Fox reportedly interviewed him on Fox Soul before the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs clashed, who was a surrogate during Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign and continues to voice his support, including in a tweet this week after his State of the Union address.
A Fox Corp. spokesman said Hill and Vivica Fox, as well as Fox Soul general manager James DuBose, flew to Washington on Friday from Los Angeles for the interview. DuBose was going to produce the interview, the spokesperson said.
After the president’s team complained that the interview had been canceled on Friday, the White House official said the network would have shared the interview on its platforms.
Fox News anchors in recent days had discussed on-air that the White House had not confirmed a Super Bowl interview with Biden, with Baier noting during the network’s State of the Union coverage Tuesday: “We’re running out of days”.
Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist, said Biden’s decision to avoid an interview with a Fox News host could be a missed opportunity and advised against missing out on reaching millions of viewers because of the network’s political leanings.
“Any time you get the opportunity to speak to so many millions of Americans, it’s a very positive thing,” he added. “You have to, no matter who is asking the questions.”
The Super Bowl pregame show where Biden’s interview would air often draws far fewer viewers than the game itself. In 2020, Fox’s pregame average 21.6 million viewers, while 148 million watched all or part of the game. By comparison, about 27.3 million people tuned in for the president’s televised State of the Union address this year.
However, the White House’s decision to oppose Fox News and agree to an interview with Fox Soul, albeit fleeting, earned Biden some praise from NPR media analyst Eric Deggans. tweeting“Masterful move by Biden, staging a Super Bowl interview with black-focused Fox Soul, bypassing Fox News Channel…”
Fox Soul, which began airing in 2020, describes itself as focused on “Black News, Inspiration, Celebrity, Social Justice, and more.”
The potential interview was also the subject of a lively debate on Friday morning on ABC’s talk show “The View.”
One host, Sunny Hostin, said Biden should not “normalize the disinformation network,” while another co-host, Alyssa Farah, disagreed.
“I think the biggest problem with our politics right now is that people exist in their echo chambers,” said Farah, who worked in the Trump White House.
Biden would not be the first president in recent years to forgo a Super Bowl interview.
Former President Donald Trump did not do an interview when NBC aired the game in 2018. That was the only time a president had skipped a Super Bowl interview since former President Barack Obama did his first in 2009. During his eight years in office , Obama gave game day interviews with three networks and six newscasters.
Obama’s predecessor, former President George W. Bush, also participated, but did not make it an annual event. Bush was interviewed live from the Rose Garden in 2004 by CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, with football being the main topic of discussion. In his remarks, Bush called on professional sports to “get really tough on players who use steroids” because of the message he sends to kids.
As for Biden’s plans for Super Bowl Sunday, the president told Telemundo this week that he will be “watching from home” with guacamole and “afterwards some chocolate chip ice cream.” His wife, First Lady Jill Biden, a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan, will travel to Glendale, Arizona, for the game.