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Joe Biden’s debate disaster was enabled by the media

Biden repeatedly lost his train of thought during Thursday night's debate. Credit: Getty

June 28, 2024 - 7:25am

Joe Biden is in the middle of the worst news cycle of his 50-year political career and it’s not nearly bad enough. Perhaps Chuck Todd of NBC News put it best, stunned after the President’s match-up with Donald Trump on Thursday night. “Biden looks like the caricature that conservative media has been painting,” said Todd. “And there were no clips here, you saw it before your eyes.”

Todd and other journalists raced to report on the mid-debate panic among high-level Democrats who realised the President’s performance had left the country shocked at the state of his health. A panel of liberal pundits on MSNBC wondered whether Biden could be replaced on ballots ahead of the Democratic Party’s convention in August.

The New York Times ran a story before CNN’s surprisingly well-moderated event ended, with the headline “I’m Hearing High Anxiety From Democrats Over Biden’s Debate Performance.” Nicholas Kristof, a star Times columnist, followed up shortly after with an article saying he hopes Biden “reviews his debate performance Thursday evening and withdraws from the race, throwing the choice of a Democratic nominee to the convention in August”.

Some journalists credulously repeated spin the Biden campaign rolled out about an hour into the debate, “confirming” reports the President had a cold. In coverage of the whole affair, some outlets also strained to balance Biden’s obvious failure with jabs at Trump’s performance, suggesting there was some equivalence between the two’s shortcomings on the night.

More egregious, though, is the media’s sudden pivot on Biden’s health. Take Todd’s use of the word “caricature” in reference to the Right’s prior attacks on Biden. Even Special Counsel Robert Hur, appointed by Biden’s attorney general, described the President several months ago as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory”. When Biden convened a bizarre press conference in February to rebut Hur’s claim, he confused the President of Egypt with his Mexican counterpart. Leaks from inside the G7 summit earlier this month suggested others in proximity to the President share Hur’s assessment.

When, in early June, the Wall Street Journal published a long report on behind-the-scenes concerns that Biden’s health was “slipping”, Morning Joe mocked the story, joking the paper should have just asked Republican Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene for her opinion. Joe Scarborough called the story “false and biased”. CNN’s Reliable Sources newsletter attempted to pick the Journal story apart, writing: “The Wall Street Journal owes its readers — and the public — better.”

What’s curious is that, as soon as the debate made it impossible to deny Biden’s deterioration, so many people in the media suddenly had sources in the Democratic Party claiming to be shocked — and so many of those journalists claimed to be shocked themselves. Of course, it’s never comforting to see your commander-in-chief lost on stage, fumbling for words with glazed eyes and an empty expression, but it’s also impossible to believe that Biden’s health is news to Beltway insiders.

Which stories weren’t written that should have been? Amid the drip-drip of brave reporting, many of the same people who are now aghast at Biden’s condition told us they had first-hand knowledge that everything was fine, or that every report questioning his health amounted to, dare I say, a “caricature”.

Either they were overstating the quality of their access or they were engaging in dishonest spin. The result is a poorly-informed public with less trust in the media and no choice to vote for another candidate because the Democratic Primary is over.


Emily Jashinsky is UnHerd‘s Washington D.C. Correspondent.

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Steven Carr
Steven Carr
21 days ago

Joe Scarborough on MSNBC , 3 months ago
”I’ve said it for years. Now, he’s cogent, but I undersold him when I said he was cogent.
He’s far beyond cogent. In fact, I think he’s better than he’s ever been, intellectually, analytically’
Remember. the MSM media will lie to you.

Nell Clover
Nell Clover
21 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

They’d still be saying how cogent he was if there wasn’t an election. Just think, they are happy with a man suffering dementia sitting in the Whitehouse so long as its their man. They have conspired for four years to keep his dementia from the public. Today, right now, who is running America? This shouldn’t now be a debate about whether he runs for President later this year, it absolutely has to be about who runs America today. There is no justification for Joe Biden remaining President if his mental health is suspect. Any doubts about his mental soundness to run in November should automatically be doubts about him remaining President today. The conspiratorial cognitive dissonance within the media remains strong.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
21 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Absolutely spot on.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
21 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Looks like Barack might not get a fourth term after all. Unless he can persuade Michelle…

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Now there’s an idea! It’s a wonder no one has suggested it before!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
20 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

There would be a demand for genital inspection to determine if another lie has been told.

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

I can’t tell you who is running America today, but whoever it is, I prefer them to Trump.

Michael Cavanaugh
Michael Cavanaugh
20 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

which is precisely Biden’s line: don’t compare me to the Almighty compare me to the alternative.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
21 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Don’t worry, Nell, it’s not like there are any international crises to deal with. I mean, it’s not as if the Russian government has blamed the US for just killing civilians on territory it claims is its own, and is openly threatening to retaliate…oh wait…

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
18 days ago
Reply to  Nell Clover

Agree, but Biden has not run America, the Democratic party does. He is simply a figurehead and they don’t care if he is competent or not. The party does not care if he dies in office, only that he is re-elected.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
21 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

If Person A needs to use the word “cogent” that many times in a sentence to describe Person B, then I instantly assume Person B is the opposite. The lady doth protest too much and all that.

Arthur King
Arthur King
20 days ago
Reply to  Steven Carr

And if you disagree with them you are far right.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
21 days ago

It’s extraordinary how the corporate media go on reporting the world as if their readership has no access to the Internet and can’t see just how shockingly mendacious they are. But what is even more shocking is the willingness of a large section of the population to go on believing their narratives even when those narratives directly contradict the evidence of their own senses.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
21 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

They rely on large sections of the public only seeking out information which validates their own positions.

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago

….and that is a pretty safe bet.

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
20 days ago

There’s a tendency to confirmation bias in most people.

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
20 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

That this debate is being had at all is an indictment of the state of US politics. It’s inconceivable it’d have been an issue prior to Obama’s second term.

We all need a confident (not arrogant) America but the arrogance of the media is every bit as self-destructive as any perceived arrogance when the US was in its global pomp.

John Holman
John Holman
20 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

A perfect summary.

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
21 days ago

Just posted this on the other article. Might as well paste it here also:

That was Biden with a week of prep, no live audience, a broadcast delay by Dem-friendly CNN, no drug test, no follow up questions. My father-in-law died with dementia and parkinsons. If you show me a doctors letter which says Biden has the exact same I won’t doubt it for a moment.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
21 days ago

You need a doctor’s letter?

2 plus 2 equals 4
2 plus 2 equals 4
21 days ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I’m not generally in favour of non-clinicians diagnosing serious neurodegenerative conditions from TV clips.
But I can’t deny the evidence of my own eyes. Footage of Biden being somewhat bewildered have been doing the rounds for months, all denied and obfuscated by the Dems and their supporters of course. What this “debate” has done is make his decline all but undeniable (there are always some ultras who will deny reality no matter how hard it slaps them in the face).

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
20 days ago

That was the point of it.

J Dunne
J Dunne
20 days ago

Months? He’s been like that for at least two years.

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago

I have a case of deja vu….

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
21 days ago

Put another nail in the coffin. The regime media continues its downward spiral into oblivion. What’s it been – maybe a week since the Cheap Fakes narrative? As usual, it will all be memory holed. They’ve been gas lighting us for years, and they expect us to believe the next story will be nothing but the facts.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
18 days ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Your phrase “regime media” speaks volumes. That’s exactly what they are.

AC Harper
AC Harper
21 days ago

I remember a meme from the late 60s/early 70s (not that ‘memes’ were widely recognised back then). People that invoked one-dimensional personas ware called ‘cardboard cut-outs’.
At first they appear real from the front… but walk around the side and they are clearly one-dimensional and incapable of reacting to events.
I guess the debate has shown that Biden is a cardboard cut-out to all but the most determined Democrats.

Martin M
Martin M
21 days ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Trump, on the other hand, is scarily real….

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
20 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

When DJT was president, we were involved in no wars, we were energy independent and net exporters of oil and gas, money stopped flowing to Iran, China was in check, illegal aliens were being stopped from invading, housing, gas, and groceries were affordable, minority unemployment was at an all time low.
That scares you, does it? Maybe you should consider seeing someone about your acute TDS.

Martin M
Martin M
19 days ago

The fact that he wants to dismantle democracy and rule like a dictator scares me.

R Wright
R Wright
19 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

He had four years to do that already you dunce.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
21 days ago

So while the focus is on Biden’s potential next term, no one seems to be talking about the elephant in the room:
We are on the brink of a nuclear war, and the guy with the nuclear codes is obviously suffering from dementia. If he’s so unfit, shouldn’t he resign today, so we can have a leader capable of dealing with the current crisis, before we all end up in a mushroom cloud?

Peter B
Peter B
21 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

More nonsensical catastrophism about nuclear wars. Get real.

Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
20 days ago
Reply to  Peter B

I wouldn’t go along with the catastrophism, granted, but Graham still raises a good point. If Biden is no longer able to campaign or debate effectively, is he still fit to be president? It’s an extremely demanding job (especially on top of an election campaign) even for someone in possession of their full faculties. It may only be for another few months, but a lot can happen in that time. The world is an uncertain and dangerous place, and the free world needs the best possible leadership. Do we have it?

El Uro
El Uro
20 days ago

The world is an uncertain and dangerous place, and the free world needs the best possible leadership. Do we have it? – There is a non-zero chance that in January there will be no one to answer your question.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
18 days ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

I suspect Biden never makes a decision without consulting his many Democratic advisors. We are not talking JFK here, but an elderly man who needs assistance. If re-elected, he will be a ghost and President in name only.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
21 days ago

““Biden looks like the caricature that conservative media has been painting,” said Todd. “And there were no clips here, you saw it before your eyes.”
It’s because it wasn’t a caricature, they were just doing their job and reporting the truth which was that Biden was already too old and rickety for the job in 2020 and his mental and physical decline has been obvious to even the most casual of observers.
Now please God, Democrats, just stop this cruel charade, let Joe go in peace to drink cocoa in his slippers in front of daytime TV and sort out this terrible mess for which you only have yourselves to blame.

J B
J B
21 days ago

Whilst not a fan of his politics I wish Biden, as a human being, all the best for his health in future.
The MSM on the other hand should be publicly burned at the stake (esp. MSNBC).

James S.
James S.
20 days ago
Reply to  J B

Elder abuse.

Matt M
Matt M
20 days ago

How to create a happy, stable, peaceful and wealthy society in 4 years.
Open the borders
Stop prosecuting crime and tolerate vagrancy and anti-social behaviour
Destroy all time-honoured customs and traditions
Re-define everything and denigrate anyone who prefers the old ways.
Hate your own country and her history
Make energy expensive and unreliable
Increase the price of everything
Show weakness to your enemies and your allies
Prosecute your political opponents in the courts on trumped-up charges
Hide the fact that the President has advanced senile dementia

Have I missed anything?

charlie martell
charlie martell
20 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Not sure you’ve missed much.

And a lot of the same is coming this way when Slippery Starmer gets sat in the high chair.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
20 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

After denying everything, deny the denier.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
19 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Be possessed of a ruling political party governed by “progressive” thought with consequences itemized above and media cowed by its “progressive” young.
Teach your children using Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” thereby teaching about the history of the U.S. from the perspective of ordinary people who fought for social justice and human rights.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
18 days ago
Reply to  Matt M

Undermine Title IX and the protection of girls/women by promoting transgender males in sport.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
20 days ago

Sometimes reality intervenes when it just becomes so obvious it cannot be avoided.
How did we get to a situation where apparently intelligent people willingly promote a reality which they could easily verify as factually incorrect?
We need to question all accepted norms pushed by the media and the new establishment.
Has trust finally been destroyed?

Atticus Basilhoff
Atticus Basilhoff
20 days ago
Reply to  Jeff Carr

Trust was destroyed some time ago.

charlie martell
charlie martell
20 days ago

Everyone who can think and see knows that Biden hasn’t just fallen of a cliff edge , rendering him suddenly unintelligible.

He was little better four years ago but it was plastered over, he was hidden away, and 90%+ of the media presented an image of an elderly, safe, wise and experienced hand. They all knew then, and since then, that he was in serious and irreversible deline.

It is all about keeping Bad Orange Man out. This is the reason for this summer debate; to facilitate a change and to install another figure the media can swing behind.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
20 days ago

Oh, come on, Emily, this whole spectacle was planned and coordinated. None of the media were “shocked”, they were an integral part of the scheme.
Democrats knew, probably from the moment they installed this corrupt old fool, that they were going to have to get rid of him. They rolled out this farce of a “debate” so they could justify it to their donors (they couldn’t care less what the American public think).
You know that the state media is run by the intelligence services (some are actually married to it: Dana Bash’s husband is in the CIA). Nothing is on the up and up with these vultures, and no one is surprised.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
20 days ago

Maybe the “blob” set up the debate, because they knew how Biden was deteriorating. Best way to put pressure on him and his Lady Macbeth wife, Gill, to leave the White House. How can any wife “allow” her husband to humiliate himself like that? She should have told him much earlier to leave in a dignified manner. Now Joe and Gill will be pressured to quit the White house for another candidate at the Democratic Convention.
Actually a (Democratic) friend of mine told me already in March, that Biden will be replaced at the Convention with Newsom.
Good luck with that commie!

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
20 days ago

It’s Jill not Gill.

El Uro
El Uro
20 days ago

The result is a poorly-informed public – I must disappoint the author. Those present are better informed than she suspects and are quite capable of drawing conclusions from what they see.

Frederick Jones
Frederick Jones
20 days ago

Surely we should be sorry for a poor old man and amazed at his arrogance in believing he is fit for the job which he occupies?

M To the Tea
M To the Tea
20 days ago

We are focusing on the health issues of two elderly dementia patients, but the critical question remains and the media ignores willfully: Who is truly in charge of the country? This is the question the media should be addressing. Instead, the focus is on trivial matters like “Broadway performances” where millions were made again by whom? It’s likely that Putin is finding this situation amusing. This goes beyond mere gaslighting and brainwashing; it feels like an assault on our collective intelligence.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
18 days ago
Reply to  M To the Tea

The Democratic party is in charge, we have no leadership. We have become a socialist country and yes, Putin is loving it.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
18 days ago
Reply to  M To the Tea

There are not “two elderly dementia patients”. There is one.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
20 days ago

The far-right Tucker Carlson, as the press would say, and liberal journalist Matt Taibbi had a long discussion yesterday about the corrupt and floundering elite press. Taibbi, who worked for Rolling Stone for 15 years, agreed that modern journalism is just about as useless as was the Soviet press. He reported from Moscow for ten years so he is in a position to compare. It is an insider’s game today and an Ivy League diploma gets you through the door where the spin is more important than the story. That means high-profile journos come from money or protected minorities, and have the same patronizing attitude toward deplorables as Hillary, Bill, Obama, Nancy and the rest of the progressive gang. They play ball with the deep state and pass on manufactured stories cooked up by its surveillance wing (Russia, Russia, Russia) and also the former Jan. 6 insurrection, now downgraded to a riot though the FBI still hasn’t owned up to its role in organizing and directing the show. Tucker is unable to disguise his disgust for his erstwhile colleagues, calling them sheep, brown-nosers and bubble dwellers. Also not very bright and basically immoral. Like a lot of his deep dives, this lasts more than two hours and worth every minute.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
19 days ago

The mainstream media is the most willfully corrupt entity in the nation.

David Pogge
David Pogge
19 days ago

When journalism gave way to ideological propaganda, as has been the case for many years in the news media of the United States, the goal of finding and communicating the truth was discarded. Of course, that does not make the truth go away. You can deny reality, but reality persists regardless of belief. The shame is that we allow people to claim that they are journalists – we allow them to use that title – when they are nothing more than advocates and entertainers.

Elon Workman
Elon Workman
19 days ago

The tragedy is that all this was known four years ago when up until the South Carolina Primary Joe Biden was an ‘also ran’ but the Democrats knew that if someone like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren was the nominee he or she would lose to Donald Trump. Even then ‘good old Joe from Scranton’ was hiding in the basement and did little campaigning. The Democrats have spent four years persecuting and prosecuting Trump who on Thursday night looked a model of probity (!) compared to the President. The Democrats have only themselves to blame because if Biden refuses to step down and remains the nominee Trump could well be re elected and if convicted by the courts might have to pardon himself before re entering the Oval Office.

rick stubbs
rick stubbs
19 days ago

A more abrupt MSM narrative pivot than this post debate shift has never occurred. The NYT, ran a “deeply reported” cheap fake theory accusing right wing media of subtly editing videos to make Biden appear frail and confused just a week back. Having thus set the stage for a full court media press against the “Biden is too old to run” argument, all hands on the editorial deck jumped ship within 24 hours post debate and call for Joe to step down! WaPo wrote similarly as did major Dem media pundits almost everywhere. Woodward called for an investigation as to why Biden’s impairment was not publicly known. This is a rich irony that looks like a stampede to avoid complicity with WH/DNC operatives. It is well known that they attended meetings called by WH staff to define what fair coverage was. They need to run fast now except for the WSJ journal which was slimmed for like 14 days for reporting that Joe had lost a couple steps. LOL.

R Wright
R Wright
19 days ago

I’ve been watching clips of his senility for four years, ever since he was hidden in a bunker for the 2020 election. It is funny to see the penny dropping.

William Cameron
William Cameron
18 days ago

And Democrats are terrified of Trump . So they put Mr Biden up against him. Why ?

Ardath Blauvelt
Ardath Blauvelt
18 days ago

Funny how the right lies and the left spins. Even now, the biased MSM pretends that they were not the ones lying — to everyone, and apparently, to themselves. Pathetically, because the truth comes from the dreaded conservative right, they will just keep on, lying. They are the danger to real democracy. Caricature? No. Reality.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
18 days ago

The media did not enable the debate disaster, only exposed it. The MSM “sudden pivot” simply reflects a previous denial and “coverup” to date. Now that the truth is evident, MSM jumps on board purely to gain readership.

Damon Hager
Damon Hager
18 days ago

So, Biden has dementia and the mainstream media have colluded in covering it up?

No! What an astonishing revelation, in equal parts shocking and incredible! This never would have occurred to us! You could knock me down with a feather! This is a game-changing moment of discovery! The scales have fallen from my eyes! Who would ever have thought it!
(Etcetera.)