Biden campaign asked radio host questions before interview

Two radio presenters said on Saturday that they asked questions from aides to President Biden ahead of separate interviews with him this week, a move a campaign spokesman defended as routine.

“It is not at all unusual for interviewees to share topics they would rather have,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said in a statement, adding that agreeing on topics in advance was not a requirement for the interview.

The admission by Biden’s campaign comes after it was criticized for allegedly regulating his public events so tightly that impromptu appearances were unlikely to cause gaffes.

During a 90-minute debate on June 27, the 81-year-old Democrat appeared tired and confused, sometimes giving rambling answers. His presumptive Republican opponent, 78-year-old former President Donald Trump, spouted a torrent of lies during the debate, which was hosted by CNN. The parties agreed beforehand not to have their moderators fact-check in real time.

During his three campaigns since 2016, Trump has made false statements on a wide range of topics. Yet Biden’s performance on the debate stage this week has come under particular scrutiny as several Democrats, liberal media outlets and donors called on him to drop out of the race or risk losing not only the White House but also control of both houses of Congress.

As part of a coordinated counterattack, the White House press secretary announced on Wednesday that Biden had recorded two radio interviews that would air the next morning: one with Earl Ingram, whose show airs across Wisconsin, and another with Andrea Lawful-Sanders on WURD’s “The Source” in Philadelphia.

Both radio hosts appeared on CNN on Saturday, where host Victor Blackwell said the interviews contained questions that sounded eerily similar. “Were those questions posed to you by the White House, or the campaign, or did you have to submit questions in advance of this interview?” Blackwell asked Lawful-Sanders.

“The questions were sent to me for approval. I approved them,” she said.

Seeking confirmation, Blackwell continued, asking, “So the White House sent you the questions in advance of the interview?” Lawful-Sanders replied, “Yes. I was given multiple questions, eight in all. And the four that were chosen were the questions that I approved.” Campaign officials said they sent the suggested questions, not White House officials.

Trump’s campaign has taken similar steps. Last month, Trump’s campaign abruptly canceled an interview with a local reporter in Virginia after he asked the reporter what questions he planned to ask, 13News Now reported.

During the CNN interview, Lawful-Sanders said her audience is primarily focused on the policy differences between Biden and Trump.

Ingram was not asked about the questions he asked Biden, but the radio host later told ABC News, “Yes, I did get a bunch of questions for Biden.” Ingram said he got five questions and Biden asked four, the outlet reported. “I didn’t get a chance to ask him everything I wanted to ask him,” he said. An email sent to Ingram Saturday afternoon was not immediately returned.

Hitt, the campaign spokeswoman, said in the statement that the questions “were relevant to the news of the day — the President was asked about his performance in the debate and what he meant to Black Americans. We do not condition interviews on accepting these questions, and hosts are always free to ask whatever questions they believe will best inform their listeners.”

President Biden spoke to ABC News on July 5 about the 2024 campaign, a week after his debate with former President Donald Trump. (Video: JM Rieger/ABC News)

She also said Biden has answered several questions from the media after returning from Wisconsin, as well as the interview with George Stephanopoulos that aired on ABC. “Americans have had several opportunities to see him unscripted since the debate,” Hitt said.

Later on Saturday, Lawful-Sanders sent out a statement defending her interview and explaining how the questions were negotiated in advance.

“When I was asked to do this interview, the most important thing to me was that Black voices were heard. I never felt pressured to ask certain questions,” Lawful-Sanders said. “I chose questions that were most important to the Black and brown communities that we serve in … Philadelphia. Those questions turned out to be exactly what the Black and brown communities wanted.”

Matt Viser contributed to this report.

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