Democratic nominee Joe Biden declined to say if he would "pack" the Supreme Court during Tuesday’s debate and critics are irked that his refusal to answer isn’t a bigger story for the mainstream media.
“Whatever position I take on that, that will become the issue,” Biden said. “The American people should speak. You should go out and vote.”
President Trump chimed in, repeating moderator Chris Wallace’s question about if Biden would “pack the court” but the former vice president didn’t answer.
Biden’s refusal to answer the question seemed like it would be among the news-making moments from the debate, but it received little attention in The New York Times and Washington Post.
"Biden's refusal to comment on packing the Supreme Court, as other prominent Democrats are advocating, is monumental news as it goes to the Democrats' willingness and desire to unwind one of the fundamental norms of our judiciary and political system, a 9-member Supreme Court,” Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson told Fox News.
The Times briefly mentioned Biden’s non-answer when noting he “refused to endorse some policies popular among progressives, like packing the Supreme Court and enacting the Green New Deal” in a recap of the debate.
Meanwhile, the Post mentioned that Biden “pointedly declined to attach himself to a push by liberals upset over Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court to abolish the filibuster or pack the Supreme Court” in an article about takeaways from the debate.
Neither paper had a splashy headline or full-length story about Biden’s refusal to answer the question.
“Had the roles been reversed, and Trump refused to comment on Republican plans to pack the Court, the New York Times and Washington Post would have screaming headlines,” Jacobson said. “The relative silence once again demonstrates that mainstream news coverage is focused on assisting the Biden campaign through what they don't cover."
While the Times and Post downplayed Biden’s refusal to answer the question, other members of the mainstream media pointed out that he dodged the simple question.
CNN senior political commentator John Kasich, a Republican who supports Biden, even felt the Democratic nominee should have been more definitive.
“I thought he had a very weak answer in terms of packing the court or whatever,” Kasich said Wednesday when analyzing Biden’s performance.
Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris echoed her running mate and also sidestepped a pair of questions immediately following the debate.
CBS News’ John Dickerson confronted Harris, saying Biden’s non-answer sounded like a “straight up dodge” and asked why he refuses to talk about it.
“Well, I think he’s very clear, John, which is he is focused, as we all should be, on the next 35 days,” Harris said. “He is focused on ... the process."
CNN’s Jake Tapper also confronted Harris on the idea of adding seats to the Supreme Court, flatly asking if it’s an idea she’s “willing to think about” but Biden’s running mate was noncommittal once again.
“We are 35 days away from an election... probably the most important election of our lifetime and out children’s lifetime, and there is nothing about these next 35 days that Joe or I will take for granted,” Harris said. “The focus right now is on reminding people that we have this election that is very much in play... we are in the midst of an election.”
The Biden campaign directed Fox News to a quote the Democratic nominee gave to reporters earlier this week when asked if Biden plans on informing the American people about his intentions for the Supreme Court prior to Election Day.
“I know you’re gonna be upset with my answer, but what I’m not gonna do is play the Trump game, which is a good game he plays -- take your eye off the issue before us... if I were to say yes or no to that, that becomes a big issue. That’s the headline here,” Biden told reporters on Sunday when asked if he would consider expanding the Supreme Court.
Conservative strategist Chris Barron feels that Biden is simply avoiding the question because he doesn’t want to lose supporters who disagree with whatever answer he gives.
“Frankly, Democrats themselves have repeatedly claimed that there is no bigger issue than the future of the Supreme Court. By their very own standard, could there be any issue more important than whether or not Joe Biden supports packing the court? The truth is that the main stream media is giving Biden a pass because they know -- like Biden’s campaign knows -- that if he says he supports it he turns off moderates and is he says he opposes it he turns off liberals.”
Others took to Twitter with thoughts on Biden's refusal to answer: