• July 20, 2024



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BIDEN’S CURSE. Start by noting that the world will not end because President Joe Biden called Fox News White House reporter Peter Doocy a “stupid son of a b****.” Doocy handled the situation gracefully and moved on. So there is no reason to clutch pearls or take to the fainting couch.

Nevertheless, the mini-controversy has revealed some interesting things about the press, or at least some corners of the press. First of all, it created a certain tension, given that many had roundly condemned President Donald Trump for saying similar things. They wanted to be consistent and criticize Biden but also stress that Trump was worse. And then some actually liked what Biden said. And now, one influential publication is arguing that Biden should do more of it, that a more profane and insulting demeanor could help the president bounce back from his slump in job approval ratings.

“The president may lack eloquence,” reads the sub-headline in a new Politico analysis. “But his outburst at Peter Doocy shows how he could harness his natural voice.” Politico founder John Harris argues that Biden is perhaps in over his head as president of the United States, which is, of course, a serious problem. In addition, Biden is incapable of making grand statements like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, or Ronald Reagan. But Joe Biden can curse like a regular guy, and people might like that. So calling a reporter a “stupid son of a b****” might actually be a good thing.

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“Biden’s lapse of presidential decorum hints at a path toward restoring presidential vitality,” Harris writes. “The whole encounter — including Doocy’s genial refusal to get all huffy about Biden’s flash of huffiness — was in its own way quite winning.” Cursing at Doocy was “very relatable,” Harris concluded, and that can have political benefits.

Other commentators took different approaches. Slate asked, “Was Joe Biden Right About Peter Doocy?” and ended up dodging the question to attack Fox News instead. (Disclosure: I am a Fox News contributor.) Comedian Jimmy Kimmel tried to get CNN’s Jake Tapper to agree with Biden. When Tapper refused to go along, Kimmel said, “Here you are defending Peter Doocy, who as far as I have been able to tell, is indeed a dumb son of a b****.”

Some tried to just move on. CNN’s Brian Stelter, who often seems fixated on Fox News, retweeted a woman named Jen Chaney, who is the TV critic at New York Magazine’s Vulture site. Chaney tweeted, “This will probably be the lead story on Fox News for the next two days, turning it into a thing when it should really be a blip.” By retweeting another critic who referred to the matter as a “blip,” Stelter’s initial reaction signaled that it was no big deal and that everyone should move on. (On the other hand, Stelter ignored Chaney’s tweet from a few minutes earlier, when she wrote that Biden was “not incorrect” about Doocy.)


At this point, it is impossible to ignore the recent past. Trump could be extraordinarily vulgar, and he took a lot of pleasure in attacking the press. For example, on more than one occasion, Trump referred to NBC’s Chuck Todd as a “son of a b****.”

Brian Stelter was appalled. “Calling a journalist a ‘son of a b****’?” Stelter tweeted in March 2018. “It was wrong when Trump was just a candidate, and it’s even worse now that he is the president. These jabs expose journalists to threats and intimidation.”

Todd, the target of Trump’s insult, worried about the implications of Trump’s words. Shortly after Trump spoke, Todd had then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as a guest on Meet the Press. “Many people, including myself, raise their kids to respect the office of the presidency and the President of the United States,” Todd said. “When he uses vulgarity to talk about individuals, what are they supposed to tell their kids?” When Mnuchin tried to change the subject to other issues, Todd responded, “So, he’s not a moral — don’t worry about his values, don’t worry about him as a role model?”

Politico published an article on Todd headlined, “When the President of the United States Calls You a ‘Son of a B****.'”

Fast forward to today. Hypocrisy is an obvious question. Shouldn’t a journalist who condemned Trump also condemn Biden? A few hours after he downplayed the Biden-Doocy moment, Stelter retweeted his 2018 “it was wrong” tweet about Trump. “This is from 2018,” Stelter noted. “It’s still true. Biden was wrong to call Doocy an SOB. The press is right to hold presidents to high standards. Biden doesn’t berate the media like Trump, so the context for today is different, but it’s still out of line.”

CNN’s Jim Acosta, another Trump antagonist, was mostly worried about reaction on the “far right.” Yes, Biden’s insult “wasn’t great,” Acosta conceded, but the greater concern was on the other side. “The far right in this country is still in an uproar, after President Biden apologized, for insulting a Fox News reporter with an expletive,” Acosta said. “Of course, it wasn’t great. It was wrong. But this is the same group of folks who came up with excuse after excuse [for Trump].”

And now, with a little distance, Politico is looking into the possible political benefits of Joe Biden cursing more. The headline of Harris’s article was “Eff-ing Right: How S*** Talk Can Save Biden’s Presidency.”

So in the course of a few days, reaction to the Biden-Doocy matter has ranged from 1) It was no big deal, to 2) It was wrong, to 3) Trump was so much worse, to 4) The real problem is the far right, to 5) Hey! This might actually help Biden! That’s politics in today’s media world.

For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show — available on the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found. You can use this link to subscribe.

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