Why Joe Biden’s Campaign Is Taking Aim at the Media

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign accused the political press this past week of not shining “a bright enough light” on Donald Trump’s abortion record, taking specific aim at a New York Times piece that described the former president—who has boasted about his Supreme Court picks overturning Roe v. Wade—as now “employing vagueness and trying to occupy a middle ground of sorts” on the issue. “It’s time to meet the moment and responsibly inform the electorate of what their lives might look like if the leading GOP candidate for president is allowed back in the White House,” the campaign wrote. Biden campaign aides reiterated this critique on X. “Good to see folks have learned nothing from a decade of covering Donald Trump,” wrote deputy campaign manager Rob Flaherty.

The Biden team has long-running grievances with the Times, as well as with the broader news media—“a perpetual chip on their shoulders stemming from their belief that reporters consistently underestimate their boss, only focus on his negatives, and don’t give him enough credit for his legislative successes,” as Politico recently noted. The latest pushback, Politico wrote, “foreshadows a campaign in which these gripes are no longer a sideshow but a central element of the reelection strategy.”

Biden campaign officials seemed to confirm just that in an interview with Vanity Fair.

“The traditional media is sort of falling down on the job here, but I think the nice thing is we have the opportunity to take a little bit of this into our own hands,” Flaherty told me, adding that their pushback online is almost like “a distributed press secretary.”

Just look at the campaign’s Biden-Harris HQ account, which, alongside highlighting the administration’s accomplishments, takes aim at Trump, prominent Republicans, and, at times, the news media. The campaign has compared Bloomberg’s economic assessments one year apart, and when Democrats captured control of the Virginia state legislature in the 2023 elections, it trolled a Times op-ed headlined “Glenn Youngkin and the Lost Republican Art of Winning,” writing, “Oops.” And there was this election night meme:

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Every presidential campaign works the refs, as they say, to try to get better coverage for its candidate—from spinning reporters to phoning editors—but such conversations typically happen in private. To the Biden campaign, the stakes are too high to just sit back and watch, so it’s increasingly taking such complaints public.

“In order to cure the problem, you have to…diagnose it first, and you have to treat the symptoms with the tools that you have,” said Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communications director. “We are diagnosing it through our communications efforts—calling it out—and then we are treating it both through communications, through digital, through our organizing apparatuses.” The strategy, said principal deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks, hasn’t so much changed as ramped up with Trump’s return to the campaign trail. “When your opponent sort of sticks their neck out and gives you an opportunity, you have to react to it,” he said. “He has ramped up in his rhetoric,” but it is “not being covered in the way that we feel like it should.”

Just a day after ripping the Times for its abortion story, the campaign blasted out a release praising the paper’s reporting on Trump’s extreme second-term immigration plans—“Sweeping Raids, Giant Camps, and Mass Deportations,” read the headline—but accusing others in the media, particularly the major TV networks, of ignoring the story. That same day, the campaign also highlighted Axios’s reporting on how any Republican president—including Trump—could ban most abortions if elected, while suggesting that “most of the political press” was refusing “to shine a light on Trump’s extreme abortion agenda.”

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