Biden team sent approved questions to radio stations before post-debate interviews

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President Biden’s campaign provided suggested questions to two Black radio hosts who did the first interviews after the president’s disastrous debate performance, according to interviews they gave on Saturday. Going forward, Biden’s team will not provide suggested questions before interviews, said a source familiar with the booking operations.

The two Thursday radio interviews in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, two crucial swing states that Biden must win to hold the presidency, were part of the Biden campaign’s efforts to demonstrate that the president could speak off the cuff in the wake of a debate performance in which the president struggled to complete sentences, lost his train of thought repeatedly, and sounded raspy. 

The revelation that the campaign provided suggested questions now raises further questions about whether the president can perform in unscripted moments.

“While interview hosts have always been free to ask whatever questions they please, moving forward we will refrain from offering suggested questions,” a source familiar with the Biden booking operation told The Hill. 

Biden scheduled these radio interviews and an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in the days after his poor debate performance. During the ABC interview, Biden specifically mentioned the two radio interviews as evidence that he could handle the rigors of the campaign. 

Andrea Lawful-Sanders, the host of “The Source” on WURD in Philadelphia, said that members of the Biden team gave her a set of eight questions, and she chose four for her interview with the president. 

She told CNN’s Victor Blackwell, the host of “First of All” on CNN, that questions were sent to her beforehand when he asked her why the questions she asked Biden appeared to be the same as those asked by Earl Ingram, a Wisconsin radio host. 

“The questions were sent to me for approval,” Lawful-Sanders said. “I got several questions — eight of them…and the four chosen were the ones that I approved.”

Biden Campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt wrote to The Hill that “it’s not at all an uncommon practice for interviewees to share topics they would prefer.” 

Ingram was on the show alongside Lawful-Sanders, and while he did interject during the interview on CNN, he later told the AP that the campaign had followed a similar process with him. He said the campaign gave him four questions, and there were no negotiations on what he could ask. 

“They gave me the exact questions to ask,” Ingram told the Associated Press. “There was no back and forth.”

He added that the process “gave him pause,” but that “he is not a journalist” and did not want to pass on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

“I probably would never have accepted, it but this was an opportunity to talk to the president of the United States,” he told the AP.

Blackwell weighed in on the hosts’ revelation, saying that he “did not know how” the Biden campaign could convince voters that the president could handle another term as president by sending in questions beforehand. 

“The reason I ask is not a criticism of either of you,” Blackwell said. “It’s just that if the White House is trying now to prove the vim, vigor, acuity of the president, I don’t know how they do that by sending questions first, before the interviews, so that the president knows what’s coming.”

During both interviews, the president appeared to misstep at different points. During the interview with Lawful-Sanders, Biden appeared to trip over his words when he said he was proud to have been the “first Black woman to serve with a Black president.” 

Hitt also pointed to former President Trump canceling an interview this week because the interviewer would not agree to his questions, saying that the Biden campaign has never “conditioned” an interview on acceptance of questions suggested by the campaign. 

Hitt added that after her interview on CNN, Lawful-Sanders made an additional comment, saying that she never “felt pressured” to accept the questions.

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