President Biden spent most of 2021 avoiding press conferences, but he held one on Wednesday, which was panned as being a "total disaster."
The White House had high hopes for Biden's press conference on Wednesday — hoping to paint the administration as a less-cloistered outfit that embraces the public and transparency. With Biden's strikingly low popularity numbers, the president was expected to cast himself as a competent leader, who is in touch with the problems of everyday American voters.
But the debacle that took place behind the podium from the East Room of the White House on Wednesday did little to support that persona according to reaction to the press conference.
The president was criticized throughout his long remarks on issues related to Russian aggression towards Ukraine, his claim that he outperformed expectations, his outburst toward a reporter and more.
1. Russia-Ukraine ‘minor incursion’
Perhaps the most startling comment of the evening was Biden's response to a question about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Biden said that while he believes an invasion is imminent, the United States is prepared to impose significant economic consequences should Russia move forward. But, he clarified, a "minor incursion" by the Russians would elicit a softer response from the U.S. than that of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
"Biden is attacking the legitimacy of American elections while signaling Putin to try a ‘minor incursion’ in Ukraine. None of this is normal. None of this is OK," National Review senior writer Dan McLaughlin responded.
"Biden just appeared to okay a ‘minor’ Russian incursion of Ukraine. So, invasion of an independent neighbor nation is bad. An incursion is OK with this president," conservative commentator Andrew Malcolm agreed.
"Biden’s comments suggesting that a ‘minor incursion' of Ukraine might not draw as vigorous a response as a full-scale invasion will trigger a lot of angst in the region, particularly in Kyiv," New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker wrote.
"Why was there no pushback to Biden saying 'it's one thing if it's a minor incursion' re Russia going into Ukraine?" former White House press secretary and Fox News host Kayleigh McEnany weighed in.
"What kind of answer was that? No incursion is ok," Fox News contributor Ari Fleischer echoed.
2. Overpromise or Outperform?
Social media quickly circulated a clip of Biden where he appeared to tell reporters that he did not overpromise what he could get done in his first year in office, but that he has, on the contrary, "outperformed" what people thought he was capable of.
"I'm not sure what planet he's inhabiting but on planet earth his record is a record of failure," Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson responded.
"Biden just claimed he has ‘outperformed what anybody thought would happen’ Sheer lunacy," Buck Sexton said.
"Joe Biden says he’s outperformed what anyone thought was possible in his first year in office. Really. He just said this," Outkick's Clay Travis reacted.
3. Biden loses his cool on a reporter
The press conference got heated when Biden yelled at Real Clear Politics correspondent Phillip Wegmann to "Go back and read what I said" after Wegmann asked about his voting rights speech in Atlanta earlier this month. Biden was criticized at the time for saying that those who disagree with him on the legislation are comparable to reviled segregationists.
"Well, now that makes two presidents who have yelled at me—Trump and Biden," Wegmann wrote following the bizarre exchange.
"'GO BACK AND READ WHAT I SAID!' Biden yells in response to the (mild) Phil Wegmann beginning to ask a mild question about Biden's comparison of political opponents to racists. Then reiterates the thing that got everyone mad? Holy wow is this weird," senior editor of The Federalist Mollie Hemingway wrote.
"Biden is now yelling at Philp Wegmann over his own usage of Bull Connor and George Wallace," commentator Stephen L. Miller observed.
"Biden now angrily abusing a reporter in defense of his indefensible Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis line," National Review Editor Rich Lowry echoed.
4. Reporters rush to the president's defense
Biden's defenders in the media worked overtime to commend the president for his remarks.
"Pres Biden, in the longest news conference in presidential history, made news, pushed back on critics, called out lies, took responsibility for mistakes he believes he made, expressed surprise at GOP, talked foreign policy and didn't lash out on reporters. Quite the change," NBC News contributor Yamiche Alcindor wrote.
"This press conference is a litany of unanswerable questions. From the same press corps that never chased down Trump’s serial lies in real time, as they were happening," contributing writer for the Atlantic Tom Nichols reacted.
The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin gave the press a "C-" with Biden scoring an "A-."
6. Overall performance
As for Biden's overall score, critics had few kind words to say.
"Realize all of the prep that went into this press conference and this is the best Biden gets. Hoo boy," remarked Dana Loesch.
"Biden is the worst president in history. A total disaster," Daily Wire reporter Ryan Saavedra agreed.
"This rambling press conference is so awful. Am I actually beginning to feel sorry for President PawPaw?" FOX Business host Dagen McDowell wrote. "No."