Former Vice President Joe Biden wants to get himself out there on people’s screens every day — he’s just waiting for his team to finish setting it up.
“We’re in the process of setting up the mechanisms by which we can do that,” Biden told reporters Friday about his campaign’s efforts to have a more robust virtual presence during the coronavirus outbreak. His campaign is working to set up a system where he can be covered by the “networks,” he said, adding, jokingly, that it’s “above my pay grade.”
Both Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) campaigns have canceled all public appearances, rallies and town halls as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads across the country, forcing many into their homes and shutting down large gatherings of people. The relative silence of Biden, whose status as the all-but-certain nominee of the party has worried Democrats who are afraid the party isn’t matching the messaging heft of President Donald Trump’s daily White House press conferences.
From the call, it was clear that Biden shares their frustration: “I want to be in daily or at least significant contact with the American people and communicate what I would be doing and what I think we should be doing,” he said, adding he “desperately” wants to communicate with the public more.
“I promise you’re going to hear more of me than you want to,” he added at the end of the call.
Biden’s campaign’s first virtual town hall struggled with production and technical issues; the former vice president paced off camera, sound cut in and out and Biden ended the event by apologizing for the “disjointed effort.”
Since, Biden’s campaign has livestreamed a speech on the coronavirus epidemic, and held press availabilities, leaving room for more interactions with supporters.
“Feel like Joe Biden is missing a major opportunity by not having a weekly livestream that begins with some words of support and empowerment for those Americans fearful of what Coronavirus means for their families, their jobs, and their retirement accounts,” Democratic strategist and media pundit Max Burns tweeted Friday.
Sanders, whose campaign has emphasized having an online presence throughout the last year, has held several livestreamed events since transitioning to remote work: a digital town hall, fireside chat and a digital rally with musical performances from Willie Nelson and the lead singer of My Morning Jacket. But Biden’s campaign, which admittedly has a much older less digital base of support, hasn’t focused on building that same online infrastructure.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has been holding daily press conferences with members of his coronavirus task force and getting wall-to-wall coverage on cable news. During these, he’s praised his administration’s response to the public health crisis, hyped up a possible vaccine and downplayed any economic fallout. On Friday, Trump said the media was over-sensationalizing the pandemic, contradicting his own advisers.
Biden started the call Friday by lambasting Trump’s response to the pandemic, and said the president needed to focus more on delivering needed medical supplies to hospitals and guaranteeing reliable COVID-19 tests for every American who needs one.
“He’s all over the map. In a crisis we need leadership that’s straightforward, clear and reliable,” Biden said. “Stop swerving between over-promising, buck-passing, and start delivering protection to our people.”
Biden also suggested corporations who receive federal bailout money as part of a stimulus package should be barred from stock buybacks or executive bonuses, and suggested ending evictions during the pandemic.
Trump’s presidential campaign brushed off Biden’s advice.
“The only thing Joe Biden knows about handling a public health crisis is that the Obama White House had to apologize for his remarks that set off a panic during the swine flu outbreak in 2009,” Tim Murtaugh, Trump’s 2020 campaign spokesperson, said in a statement. “The President is leading an unprecedented mobilization of America against the coronavirus and all Joe Biden can offer is ineffective partisan sniping from the sidelines.”
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