Scandal! Horror! Biden's press-briefing notes prompt rightwing outrage

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Poppy Noor
·3 min read
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<span>Photograph: Oliver Contreras/EPA</span>
Photograph: Oliver Contreras/EPA

Joe Biden’s first press conference has caused some strong reactions from the conservative side of the aisle after he was caught … reading notes.

On Thursday night, Fox News dedicated considerable time covering just how long Biden took to hold his first press conference – 49 days!

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The news outlet and other tabloids have also zoned in on another of Biden’s transgressions since. No, not his reopening of a facility used to detain children in jail-like, crowded conditions when they arrive unaccompanied at the border – but how over-prepared he is.

“New photos show cheat sheets used by Biden during his first press conference,” a New York Post headline read last night. On Fox News, the former White House press secretary under the Bush administration Ari Fleischer was quoted, who had picked up on Biden “[using] notes throughout the news conference, often referencing them, at times appearing to read directly from them”.

Scandal! So what’s it all about?

What do the notes say?

Upon closer inspection, you will see that Joe Biden is indeed a prepared man. His notes speak of how the US now ranks 13th globally in infrastructure quality in the world, down from fifth place in 2002. Did you know that China spends three times more on infrastructure than the US? No? Well, Biden does: he has it in his notes. And he needn’t commit to memory boring details of how many US bridges need repairing, because that’s in his notes too. (And, in case you’re wondering, it’s more than a third!)

Is it unusual for presidents to look at their notes in this way?

No. There have been many note-reading presidents, including Barack Obama, who perhaps put so many notes on his speeches they became unreadable. John F Kennedy, known for his oratorical ability, was often seen with his notes during his TV addresses, for example.

It is customary for politicians to speak using notes, and when they don’t things can go badly – George W Bush certainly could have done with a cheat sheet when trying to remember what came after “fool me once”.

(Bill Clinton, of course, didn’t need a sheet to cheat.)

Across the Atlantic, Boris Johnson has even been known to use a cue card or two – he especially favors using them in the style of Mark, that guy in Love Actually who is obsessed with his best friend’s wife and turns up with a bunch of them at her door.

Any notable notes that former presidents have used?

Now that you mention it, remember that time Reuters got a shot of Trump’s cue cards, the ones he was using for his impeachment trial? Oh yes. They read:

“I WANT NOTHING. I WANT NOTHING. NO QUID PRO QUO. TELL ZELLINSKY I WILL DO THE RIGHT THING. THIS IS THE FINAL WORD FROM THE PRES. OF THE US.”

And then there was the time he used cue cards to remind him to listen to shooting survivors.

Nothing wrong with being prepared, I guess.