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Biden aide: The president-elect knows the media's job is to 'hold him accountable'

CNN's Brian Stelter talks to President-elect Joe Biden's national press secretary TJ Ducklo about what the media can expect from a Biden White House.

Posted: Nov 9, 2020 1:31 PM
Updated: Nov 9, 2020 1:31 PM

A version of this article first appeared in the "Reliable Sources" newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.

Coming soon: A restoration of normal relations between the president and the press corps?

Well, President-elect Joe Biden is not going to call the media the "enemy of the people," that's for sure.

Biden went to church and spent time with his family on Sunday -- a purposefully low-key day after Saturday morning's projections by the networks and Saturday night's victory event in Wilmington. Several of his aides fanned out on the Sunday shows to say, as deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield said on "Meet the Press," that "the work starts right away." On "State of the Union," senior adviser Symone Sanders said no one from the White House has called about a concession phone call yet, but "a number of Republicans from the Hill have reached out" to the president-elect. She also emphasized that Biden's team is moving forward.

On "Reliable Sources," I interviewed the campaign's national press secretary TJ Ducklo, and I was struck by his statements about the role of the fourth estate. He said things like "the media has an incredibly important job to do" -- words that would be uncontroversial at practically any other time in American history, but are newly important now, after four years of venomous attacks against the media by the commander in chief.

"President-elect Biden believes that the media is a critical piece of our democracy; that transparency is incredibly important," Ducklo said. "You'll remember we opened all of our fundraisers this campaign, opened to press so that folks could see what was going on and what was being said."

Ducklo said Biden also believes "that the media's job is to hold him accountable. He is there to do the people's work. And, you know, he welcomes that relationship. He welcomes their role, the media's role in our democracy. And I think it will be, frankly, the polar opposite what we have seen the last four years." A reset is about to begin...

"They voted for truth"

I also asked Ducklo about the poisoned political information environment -- think QAnon, InfoWars, Gateway Pundit, etc -- and asked how Biden can possibly "heal" the nation and restore trust when this conspiracy culture is so prevalent.

"Well, look, that's our job. It's our job to bring the country together," Ducklo said. "It's our job to help the country heal." He also commented, of Biden's record number of voters, "they voted for truth. They voted, as the VP likes to say, on the stump, they voted for truth over lies. It is our job to continue to stand up for truth, to continue to stand up for facts..."

The transition team should hold regular press briefings

During the general election campaign, Trump was widely accessible but wildly dishonest, spreading lies through the media's megaphones. Biden was less accessible but more truthful, though gaffe-prone and vulnerable to out-of-context attacks. So what now? How accessible will the president-elect be? On "Reliable Sources," ABC chief WH correspondent Jon Karl said this:

"One symbol that I think would be very powerful and very important is for the Biden transition to begin immediately to hold regular press briefings. They haven't done that as a campaign. It should happen now. It's the media's job to show that we ask tough questions of whoever is in power. We have certainly done that with Donald Trump. Now it's certainly time to do it with President-Elect Biden." Karl pointed out that "steps need to be taken to be sure everything is done safely" due to the pandemic, but it's doable...

Will Biden make a 'strong public commitment' to press freedom?

Media law professor and CJR press freedom correspondent Jonathan Peters wrote on Twitter:

"There's a variety of things any administration can do to shape press freedom and journalism practice (FOIA implementation, leak investigations, subpoenaing journalists, etc.), and they're all important. But what I really hope the Biden-Harris administration does, early on, is make a strong public commitment to journalism and press freedom -- to say emphatically that a free press, however imperfect, is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy. One in which journalists work in good faith to inform their communities and to enable democratic participation. This kind of commitment would go a long way toward helping to restore respect for the norms that underlie press freedom and its exercise."

My two cents

I've been saying this for a while on TV and in speeches but I don't think I've written it down in this newsletter before. So here: The media's adversarial approach that you've seen during the Trump years -- demanding truth from power, calling out lies, criticizing indecency -- that approach serves us well no matter who holds high office. If Biden says the blue sky is red, the media must call it out. Of course, different degrees of deception deserve to be treated differently. A slip of the tongue must not be equated with a smear campaign. But in all cases, the media stay on the side of the truth...

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 293542

Reported Deaths: 6638
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19560229
Hinds18674385
Harrison16512276
Rankin12595262
Jackson12451217
Lee9663160
Madison9400195
Jones7891145
Forrest7140136
Lauderdale6784225
Lowndes6008137
Lamar584480
Lafayette5707113
Washington5159128
Bolivar4594120
Oktibbeha439991
Panola426892
Pearl River4116128
Warren4114113
Pontotoc407368
Marshall399492
Monroe3980126
Union392873
Neshoba3767166
Lincoln3464100
Hancock339973
Leflore3358118
Sunflower317185
Tate300874
Pike298393
Scott292567
Alcorn290360
Itawamba288871
Yazoo283862
Tippah275665
Copiah274557
Coahoma272766
Simpson271778
Prentiss268658
Leake251770
Wayne251340
Marion250778
Covington247878
Grenada245876
Adams233277
George230645
Newton224751
Winston220275
Jasper211844
Tishomingo211765
Attala206269
Chickasaw200650
Holmes181670
Clay178149
Stone171429
Tallahatchie169839
Clarke168671
Calhoun156428
Smith151831
Yalobusha142936
Greene126833
Walthall123540
Noxubee122729
Perry121434
Montgomery121237
Lawrence119321
Carroll117623
Amite110832
Webster109929
Jefferson Davis100531
Tunica98623
Claiborne97729
Benton93124
Humphreys91626
Kemper89522
Quitman77014
Franklin75519
Choctaw69516
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson61427
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 491110

Reported Deaths: 9831
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson706291356
Mobile35894721
Madison32255442
Tuscaloosa23996409
Montgomery22462494
Shelby21820215
Baldwin19670274
Lee14900150
Morgan13599249
Calhoun13175285
Etowah13143319
Marshall11226206
Houston10048259
Elmore9337183
Limestone9335134
Cullman8869179
St. Clair8783220
Lauderdale8581210
DeKalb8429174
Talladega7481163
Walker6504251
Jackson6477102
Autauga620389
Blount6086125
Colbert5978118
Coffee5230102
Dale4621106
Russell401831
Franklin397876
Covington3956106
Chilton384298
Escambia377172
Tallapoosa3572141
Clarke342949
Dallas3397141
Chambers3392108
Pike293071
Lawrence281384
Marion280894
Winston246166
Bibb244260
Geneva238670
Marengo233354
Pickens223954
Barbour209951
Hale208868
Fayette199756
Butler195165
Henry182041
Cherokee176438
Monroe165938
Randolph163140
Washington156634
Crenshaw143554
Clay143354
Macon140943
Cleburne136839
Lamar131732
Lowndes130648
Wilcox120825
Bullock116336
Conecuh106523
Perry105327
Sumter98431
Coosa87823
Greene87032
Choctaw54823
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