London Met Reader Featured in Politico

Dr Karen McNally was interviewed for political journalism website Politico about Joe Biden’s approach to television appearances.

Date: 11 November 2022

Reader in American Film, Television and Cultural History Dr Karen McNally was interviewed recently by Sam Stein, the White House Editor for Politico.

In the article, titled ‘Biden’s still not ready for his close up’ (a nod to Gloria Swanson’s performance in the 1950 Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard), Stein and colleagues discussed President Joe Biden’s limited use of television as a form of political communication. Stein suggests that Biden has exhibited a rare reluctance to exploit television in the contemporary media age, focusing instead on short, scripted moments and essential messaging. 

This approach is in stark contrast to his predecessor’s ubiquitous presence on television, Dr McNally suggests. As the celebrity of The Apprentice, Donald Trump viewed television as a direct route to his fans/voters, even as his constant visibility increasingly worked against him, particularly during the bizarre press conferences of the pandemic. Television was, in addition, consumed by Trump during his presidency, as Karen and contributors discuss in her volume American Television during a Television Presidency.

The article suggests that Biden has shown a determination to distance himself from this approach that often prioritised presidential screen time over content, and that was finally counter-productive for Trump. 

“It’s a pretty clear reaction against Trump” Karen comments. “Trump was the exploiter of the idea of the pseudo-event for no purpose whatsoever except for being in front of the public. Biden is reacting against that, in part I think, by knowing that the public is exhausted.”

Karen has her doubts as to whether Biden’s alternative approach to television is likely to be successful in the long term. “I think people are tired but I think it is of the moment. I don’t think that’s going to last.”

Joe Biden at a conference