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Is Barack Obama Avoiding the Press?

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Obama press conferences front-loaded during 'honeymoon period' of 1st term; President has held fourth fewest solo press conferences during 1st year of office since Herbert Hoover

Although many significant events have transpired over the last 5 weeks - the Northwest Airlines Christmas Day bombing attempt, the Miranda rights political fallout after the apprehension of the would-be bomber, the election of a Republican to Ted Kennedy's U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts, and public opinion and Democratic in-fighting putting the future of Barack Obama's pet issue of health care reform in limbo - the President is fast approaching the longest stretch of his administration without holding a press conference.

Obama has now gone 44 days since his last press conference on December 18th in Copenhagen - and is soon to overtake the stretch of 46 days he went without a press conference between August 10th and September 25th of 2009 and the 49-day period he went without taking questions from the press corps between September 25th and November 13th.

Obama has also gone 68 days since holding a press conference on U.S. soil (November 24, 2009), 128 days since handling the press in a solo news conference (September 25, 2009), and 193 days since his last 'full' news conference at the White House (July 22, 2009).

To be sure, Obama has been preoccupied in recent weeks with the crafting of his State of the Union Address, which was delivered last Wednesday evening.

In fact, a few of Obama's predecessors likewise did not hold press conferences between the Christmas holidays and their respective first State of the Union Addresses, including George W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, and John F. Kennedy.

However, most modern presidents have met with the press during this window between the holidays and their first State of the Union Address.

Bill Clinton held seven press conferences during this span, all overseas between his meetings with European and former Eastern Bloc leaders just two weeks before his inaugural State of the Union speech.

Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush each held three press conferences during this time frame, while Jimmy Carter held two, and Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, and Franklin D. Roosevelt each held one.

Number of Presidential Press Conferences Held Between Christmas Day and President's First State of the Union Address, Hoover through Obama

President
Total
Bill Clinton
7
Harry Truman
3
George H.W. Bush
3
Jimmy Carter
2
Franklin Roosevelt
1
Lyndon Johnson
1
Dwight Eisenhower
0
John Kennedy
0
Richard Nixon
0
Gerald Ford
0
George W. Bush
0
Barack Obama
0
Herbert Hoover
N/A
Note: Hoover gave his first State of the Union Address prior to the Christmas holidays, on December 3, 1929. Data from the American Presidency Project compiled by Smart Politics.

Overall, while President Obama has held the sixth most press conferences (27) through his first year in office of the 14 presidents since Hoover, he has held the fourth fewest solo press conferences (11).

Part of the reason Obama has held so few solo press conferences is because of his extensive travels abroad. Obama has held more press conferences outside the United States (17) than any other president during their first year in the Oval Office.

Sixty-three percent of Obama's press conferences in his first term were jointly held with other world leaders - tied for the largest percentage (63 percent) with George W. Bush.

Only George W. Bush (5), Ronald Reagan (7), and Richard Nixon (8) held fewer solo press conferences through their first year in office.

Reagan, of course, spent part of his first year recuperating from the assassination attempt that was made on his life in early spring of 1981.

George W. Bush's lack of press conferences early in his administration was also of little surprise in light of the 'bristly' relationship he was viewed to have with the press corps.

Barack Obama, however, was considered by many throughout most of his presidential campaign, as well as the early months of his presidency, to have had a 'love affair' with the media - viewed, by some of his critics, as a masterful marionette pulling the strings (and sometimes the heart strings) of sympathetic journalists.

And yet, as Obama's poll numbers dropped - so too have the number of his media availabilities.

The number of Obama press conferences declined sharply in the second half of his first term in office - as his polling numbers fell from the high 60s on Inauguration Day, to the low 60s by early summer, to the low 50s by mid-August, to occasionally below 50 percent thereafter.

In fact, 19 of Obama's 27 press conferences took place during his first six months in office, while holding just 8 since July 20th. Across the last 14 presidents, only Richard Nixon (75.0 percent) held a larger percentage of his press conferences during the first six-month "honeymoon period" than has Obama (70.4 percent).

Percentage of Presidential Press Conferences Held During the First Six Months in Office, Hoover Through Obama

President
First 6 months
Next 6 months
Total
% First
Richard Nixon
6
2
8
75.0
Barack Obama
19
8
27
70.4
John Kennedy
13
7
20
65.0
George W. Bush
12
7
19
63.2
George H.W. Bush
18
14
32
56.3
Lyndon Johnson
18
15
33
54.5
Dwight Eisenhower
13
11
24
54.2
Bill Clinton
23
22
45
51.1
Franklin Roosevelt
8
8
16
50.0
Herbert Hoover
46
48
94
48.9
Jimmy Carter
11
12
23
47.8
Gerald Ford
8
10
18
44.4
Ronald Reagan
3
4
7
42.9
Harry Truman
22
37
59
37.3
Data from the American Presidency Project compiled by Smart Politics.

Overall, at 94 press conferences, Herbert Hoover met with the media the most during his first year in the Oval Office over the last 14 presidents, followed by Truman with 59, Clinton with 45, LBJ with 33, and George H.W. Bush at 32.

Reagan held the least with 7, with Nixon at 8, and FDR at 16.

Number and Type of Press Conferences Held in First Year of Office by President, Hoover Through Obama

Rank
President
Foreign
Domestic
Joint
Solo
Total
1
Hoover
0
94
0
94
94
2
Truman
0
59
0
59
59
3
Clinton
13
32
31
14
45
4
LBJ
0
33
0
33
33
5
Bush 41
7
25
3
29
32
6
Obama
17
10
16
11
27
7
Eisenhower
0
24
0
24
24
8
Carter
0
23
0
23
23
9
JFK
0
20
0
20
20
10
Bush 43
12
7
14
5
19
11
Ford
0
18
1
17
18
13
FDR
0
16
0
16
16
13
Nixon
0
8
0
8
8
14
Reagan
0
7
0
7
7
Data from the American Presidency Project compiled by Smart Politics.

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5 Comments


  • Whether he is avoiding the press or not does not matter to me personally.

    What matters is that this county gets fixed!

  • Media is a business. Their interests do not necessarily coincide with the public interest. Investigative journalism as per I.F. Stone (old school) or Seymour Hersch to name two, is quite another thing. Media needs to sell advertising to keep the doors open.

    To keep the 'nanosecond' like attention of the American public is like speed dating. Everyday needs to have a fresh issue or angle in order to keep the public tuned in, buying papers, or measuring the number of web page hits. It all boils down to advertising rates based on viewership.

    So I agree with 'Orlando Dentist' above. I am looking to reward accomplishment and not avoidance.

  • An interesting post with some statistical insight, has made interesting following from across the pond (UK) to see how opinion polls have shifted as Obama's term carries on.

  • GOP Chairperson Michael Steele gathered with representatives of the Tea Party Movement yesterday in an attempt to add them on board with the Republican Party. I'm thankful that the Tea Party has determined not to check it's wagon to the GOP. They are a really impressive pressure group when it comes to restraining the Republican Party in line. The same goes for the Republican Liberty Caucus. The RLC and the Tea Party are overwhelmingly compiled of Conservatives and Conservative Libertarians who are REVOLTED at the behavior of the middle-of-the-road Republican RINOS who used their dominance of the White House and Congress to join forces with the Democrats and grow the administration, sign McCain-Feingold, and the list of real offences against our Constitution and Conservative precepts is long indeed.

  • Where did you get your numbers of FDR's press conferences?

    You are way off.

    FDR held a press conference with 8 days of his March 4 inauguration and continued to
    hold such meetings on a regular basis, twice a week, when he was in town.

    Please correct!

    Betty Houchin Winfield, Ph.D.

  • Leave a comment


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