Biden campaign asked radio host questions ahead of interview

Two radio presenters said on Saturday that they Questions were supplied to aides ahead of separate interviews with President Biden this week, a move routinely defended by a campaign spokesman.

“It is not uncommon for interviewees to share topics of their choice,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said in a statement, adding that agreeing on topics in advance was not a condition of the interview.

The admission by Biden's campaign comes at a time when he has been criticized for exerting too much control over his public events in an effort to minimize potential mistakes during unexpected appearances.

During the 90-minute debate on June 27, the 81-year-old Democrat appeared tired and confused, and at times gave absurd answers. His likely Republican opponent, 78-year-old former President Donald Trump, spewed a flurry of falsehoods during the debate, hosted by CNN. The parties had agreed in advance that they would not have their moderators fact-check them in real time.

During his three campaigns since 2016, Trump has made false statements on a number of issues. Still, Biden's performance on the debate stage has come under particular scrutiny this week, when many Democrats, liberal media voices and donors have called on him to drop out of the race, or risk losing control of not just the White House but both houses of Congress.

As part of the coordinated resistance, the White House press secretary announced Wednesday that Biden had recorded two radio interviews that would air the next morning: one with Earl Ingram, whose show airs in Wisconsin, and the other 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 questions asked in the interview were uncannily similar. Blackwell asked Lawful-Sanders, “Were these questions given to you by the White House or the campaign or did you have to submit the questions in advance of this interview?”

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

Seeking confirmation, Blackwell asked: “So did the White House send you questions before the interview?” Lawful-Sanders responded, “Yes. I received a number of questions, eight of them. And I approved the four questions that were selected.” Campaign aides said they had sent the proposed questions, not White House officials.

Two people familiar with the Biden booking operation said the campaign would not continue the practice of offering “suggested questions.”

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 wanted 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, “Yeah, I was given some questions for Biden.” According to the outlet, Ingram said he was given five questions and asked Biden four of them. “I didn't get a chance to ask him everything I wanted to ask,” 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 related to the news of the day — the president was asked about his performance in this debate as well as what he has done for Black Americans. We do not condition the interview on acceptance of these questions, and hosts are always free to ask questions they feel will best inform their listeners.”

President Biden discussed the 2024 campaign in an interview with ABC News on July 5, one week after his debate with former President Donald Trump. (Video: J.M. Rieger/ABC News)

He also noted that Biden has answered many questions from the media since returning from Wisconsin, as well as an interview with George Stephanopoulos shown on ABC. “Since the debate, Americans have had many opportunities to see him without a script,” Hitt said.

Later on Saturday, Lawful-Sanders released a statement defending her interview and explaining how the questions had been negotiated beforehand.

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

Matt Visser contributed to this report.

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