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President Joe Biden’stesty exchange with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy made headlines on Monday when Doocy asked him a question about whether inflation would be a “political liability” going into the 2022 midterm elections.
Biden’s snarky response was caught on his still-hot mic.
“No, it’s a great asset — more inflation,” Biden said, shaking his head. “What a stupid son of a bitch.”
But heated exchanges with reporters are nothing new in the White House, and presidents — some more than others — have long shown their exasperation, or worse, with the press.
George H.W. Bush argues with Dan Rather over his framing of the Iran-Contra affair, 1988
CBS news anchor Dan Rather interviewed then-Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988, which Bush referred to as a political profile before the presidential election.
However, in the nearly 10 minute-long interview, Rather and Bush argued over the anchor’s approach to asking Bush about controversies inside the White House during the Iran-Contra affair.
When Rather asked why vice presidential adviser Don Gregg was still working in the White House despite his role in the affair, Bush criticized Rather and the network’s approach to the interview.
“You’ve impugned my integrity by suggesting with one of your little boards here that I didn’t tell the truth about … Felix Rodriguez,” he said. “… And so I find this to be a rehash, and a little bit, if you’ll excuse me, a misrepresentation on the part of CBS, who said you’re doing political profiles on all candidates, and then you come up with something that has been exhaustively looked into.”
Later in the interview, Bush said instead of discussing Iran, he wanted to talk about “why I want to be president.” When Rather interrupted him, Bush mentioned when, in 1987,Rather walked off set for several minutes, leaving nothing to broadcast on live TV when he was upset because the network shortened the “CBS Evening News.”
“I don’t think it’s fair to judge a whole career, it’s not fair to judge my whole career by a rehash on Iran,” Bush said. “How would you like it if I judged your career by those seven minutes when you walked off the set in New York? Would you like that? I have respect for you, but I don’t have respect for what you’re doing here tonight.”
Christiane Amanpour questions Clinton’s “flip-flops” on Bosnia, 1994
At a CNN forum in 1994, CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour grilled President Bill Clinton on his administration’s approach to the then-ongoing Bosnian War and the genocide and ethnic cleansing that were carried out during it.
“Do you not think that the constant flip-flops of your administration on the issue of Bosnia sets a very dangerous precedent?” she asked, inquiring whether Clinton’s stance led him to be taken “less seriously than you might like to be taken.”
“No, but speeches like that make them take me less seriously than I’d like to be taken,” Clinton responded. “There have been no constant flip-flops, madam.”
Clinton continued by touting the actions his administration had taken in Bosnia, such as enforcing a no-fly zone, a humanitarian airlift, and a safe zone around Sarajevo, while stating that he did not want U.S. troops to get involved to try to affect the strategic outcome.
“I ran for president saying I would do my best to limit ethnic cleansing and to see the United States play a more active role in resolving the problem in Bosnia, and we have been much more active than my predecessor was in every way from the beginning,” the president said.
George W. Bush calls New York Times reporter a “major-league asshole,” 2000
On stage at a campaign event a couple of months before he was elected, George W. Bush made a comment about New York Times reporter Adam Clymer that was caught by a microphone.
“There’s Adam Clymer, major-league asshole from The New York Times,” Bush said to his vice presidential running mate, Dick Cheney.
Cheney responded, “Oh yeah, big time.”
“I regret that private comment I made to the vice presidential candidate made it to the public airwaves,” Bush said later.
When asked whether he would apologize to Clymer, Bush repeated that he regretted that the comment had made it into the “public airwaves.”
“I regret that everybody heard what I said,” he said, but did not comment on whether he would apologize.
Obama says to reporter following interview, “Let me finish my answers next time,” 2011
Following an interview with Brad Watson from WFAA-TV in Dallas, President Barack Obama commented that the reporter was interrupting him.
“Why do you think you’re so unpopular in Texas?” Watson asked.
“Texas has always been a pretty Republican state for historic reasons,” Obama said.
Later in the interview, Watson interjected when Obama discussed his election results in the state. “We lost by a few percentage points in Texas,” the president said.
Watson interrupted to say, “Well, you lost by about 10.”
“I understand,” he said. “If what you’re telling me is that Texas is a conservative state, you’re absolutely right.”
Following the interview, “Mr. Obama pointed out that he doesn’t like an interviewer challenging his comments,” Watson narrated.
“Let me finish my answers next time we’re doing an interview, all right?” Obama said after the fact. “Thank you.”
“You are fake news,” Trump says to CNN reporter, 2017
CNN reporter Jim Acosta tried to ask a question in Donald Trump’s first news conference as president-elect.
However, Trump refused to call on Acosta. “Not you,” he said multiple times as Acosta tried to ask his question.
“Your organization is terrible,” Trump said loudly, as Acosta repeatedly tried to ask the question.
“I am not going to give you a question,” he said. “You are fake news.”
“Mr. President-elect, that’s not appropriate,” Acosta said, but Trump had moved on.
“What a stupid question,” Trump says to CNN reporter, 2018
Trump bristled again under questioning by CNN when a reporter asked during an outdoor press gaggle about then-acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, a known critic of the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“Do you want him to rein in Robert Mueller?” White House correspondent Abby Phillip asked regarding Whitaker.
“What a stupid question that is,” Trump responded. “What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.”
Trump walked away after the exchange.
“That’s such a racist question,” Trump tells reporter who asked about “emboldening white nationalists,” 2018
At a news conference, PBS Newshour correspondent Yamiche Alcindor questioned Trump about nationalism and whether his rhetoric had been a boon to racism in the U.S.
“On the campaign trail, you called yourself a nationalist,” she said. “Some people saw that as emboldening white nationalists.”
Trump interrupted Alcindor to say, “I don’t know why you’d say that. That’s such a racist question.”
Alcindor continued with her question after being interrupted. “There are some people that say that the Republican Party is now seen as supporting white nationalists because of your rhetoric. What do you make of that?”
“Why do I have my highest poll numbers ever with African Americans?” Trump said. He then repeated, “Honestly, that’s a racist question.”
Trump reiterated his stance on nationalism, then came back to what he perceived as the “insulting” nature of Alcindor’s question.
“I love our country,” he said. “I do. You have nationalists, you have globalists. I also love the world and I don’t mind helping the world. But we have to straighten out our country first. … What you said is so insulting to me. It’s a very terrible thing that you said.”
Trump tells Chinese American reporter to "ask China that question,” 2020
At a news conference in 2020, CBS correspondent Weijia Jiang asked Trump about his approach to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Why is this a global competition to you if everyday Americans are still losing their lives and we’re still seeing more cases every day?” she asked.
“They’re losing their lives everywhere in the world, and maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me, ask China that question, OK?” Trump responded to Jiang, who was born in China.
“Sir, why is that a question you are asking me, specifically?” Jiang responded.
“I’m not saying it specifically to anybody,” Trump responded. He said he would say it to anyone who “asked that nasty question,” and the news conference ended just a few seconds later.
Trump berates reporter over question about Covid-19, saying, "You’re a terrible reporter,” 2020
In a news conference during the early days of the pandemic in 2020, NBC News reporter Peter Alexander asked Trump whether he might be promoting false hope by advertising unproven Covid-19 treatments.
“Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope … [from] a not-yet-approved drug?” Alexander asked.
Trump interrupted with the assertion, “I don’t think so.”
“I feel good about it,” Trump said. “That’s all it is, just a feeling, smart guy. … I sure as hell think we ought to give it a try.”
Alexander followed up by citing statistics on Covid. At the time, the reporter said, nearly 200 Americans had died and almost 14,000 were sick.
“What do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?” he asked.
“I say that you’re a terrible reporter,” Trump responded. “That’s what I say. I think that’s a very nasty question, and it’s a very bad signal that you’re putting out to the American people. The American people are looking for answers and they’re looking for hope. … That’s really bad reporting, and you ought to get back to reporting instead of sensationalism.”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” Trump added, before moving on to the next question.
Biden responds to CNN reporter after she questioned his confidence in Putin, 2021
Biden responded harshly when CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins asked about his confidence in President Vladimir Putin of Russia at a news conference in June.
“Why are you so confident he’ll change his behavior, Mr. President?” Collins asked.
Biden responded by disavowing Collins’ framing.
“I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior … Where the hell — what do you do all the time? When did I say I was confident?”
Biden, who had been walking away, turned around and approached the crowd of reporters.
“Let’s get it straight,” he said. “What I said was, what will change [Russia’s] behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and that diminishes their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything. I’m just stating a fact.”
Collins responded by listing the various inconsistencies Putin has demonstrated.
“But given his past behavior has not changed, and in that press conference after sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyber attacks,” the CNN reporter told Biden. “He downplayed human rights abuses. He even refused to say Alexei Navalny’s name. So how did that account to a constructive meeting as presidents?”
“If you don’t understand that, you’re in the wrong business,” Biden said, before walking away despite more shouted questions.
The president was quick to show contrition for the exchange with Collins in brief remarks to the White House press pool as he boarded Air Force One.
“I owe my last questioner an apology,” the president said. “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy with the last answer I gave.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misspelled the name of CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins.