After being offered a slot for an interview during the Super Bowl by Fox, it appears that Biden has gone silent and will not be accepting the offer to speak. The tradition has been a staple in the Super Bowl since 2009, when then-President Barack Obama participated in the first interview. Although not completely confirmed, the White House has refused to comment on whether or not Biden wants to even participate, and Fox TV executives are proceeding with events as if already anticipating the interview will not happen. The Super Bowl is consistently the most watched television event in America by sheer numbers, so many are surprised (but not really) that Biden would turn down such an opportunity to be heard.
By Brian Steinberg; February 9, 2023
When Super Bowl LVII arrives on Sunday, Fox is prepared to broadcast hours and hours of the event, with all of the usual trappings — except, perhaps, one.
With just three days to go before the Kansas City Chiefs square off against the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the White House has yet to commit to the traditional interview between the President of the United States and the news division of the media company broadcasting the gridiron classic, potentially shunning a conversation that would be seen by one of TV’s biggest audiences. Fox News attached no conditions to the exchange, according to a person familiar with the matter, which has been a staple of the event (more or less) since President Barack Obama started doing it in 2009.
A final decision has yet to be announced, and there is still a chance the conversation could take place. But executives at Fox News are proceeding as if it will not, according to the person familiar with the situation, given that the White House has declined to commit all week. Announcements about a Super Bowl interview with the president are usually finalized five or more days ahead of the event.
Fox News declined to make executives available for comment. The White House did not respond to three Variety queries emailed over the past several days.
It’s clear the outcome has been on the minds of Fox News personnel. On Thursday’s broadcast of “The Five,” Jessica Tarlov noted that when President Biden “goes out there, and he goes ad lib, off-the-cuff, he usually gets a bump in the polling. That is what happens during the primary, and I hope he will do a Super Bowl interview with us.” On Tuesday night, following coverage of President Joe Biden’s “State of the Union” speech, Fox News anchors Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum discussed the situation with Harold Ford, Jr., the former Democratic congressman from Tennessee who works as a co-host on “The Five.” “We have formally asked for that interview, but we have not received an answer yet, whether they are going to officially do it or not,” Baier said. “We are running out of days.”
Fox News had been planning to offer one of its news correspondents to handle the duties; this person says a notable change from how it has approached the assignment in years past. Fox News has for years dispatched one of its opinion hosts to question the Commander in Chief. Bill O’Reilly lobbed questions at Obama in 2011 and 2014 and President Trump in 2017, while Sean Hannity quizzed Trump in 2020. Both Shannon Bream, the host of “Fox News Sunday,” and Bret Baier, a longtime anchor of Fox News’ top political events and elections, were seen as contenders for the assignment, according to the person familiar with the situation.
The Super Bowl “get” is a coveted one. The interview can generate headlines for several days and play out on networks’ nightly news and morning programs. It can also be tricky, especially if it is broadcast live. Savannah Guthrie’s pre-game talk with Obama in 2015 was “really tricky,” she told Variety in the following year. “You have to remember; this is an interview that takes place in the Super Bowl pre-show. The last thing everyone is thinking about or wanting to talk about is politics.” The assignment, she said, “is striking the right balance, having the right tone for the context of the day, but you want to do an interview that is helpful, asks some important questions.”
President Biden has been less generous than his predecessors with time spent on one-on-one interviews with media outlets. Even so, earlier this week, he spoke with Judy Woodruff for “PBS NewsHour,” and an interview with NBCUniversal’s Telemundo had been scheduled for broadcast on Thursday evening.
He would not be the first sitting president to decline a Super Bowl berth. President Trump, in 2018, opted to forgo a sit down with NBC News and anchor Lester Holt. At the time, people familiar with discussions between NBC News and the White House believed President Trump wanted to avoid a conversation about the criticism he had made of NFL players who had knelt during the playing of the National Anthem to protest social injustice in the United States.
The pre-game exchange rose to prominence under Obama, who did live interviews with everyone from CBS’ Scott Pelley to NBC’s Matt Lauer. The original Super Bowl talk with a sitting U.S. president was decidedly less formal. President George W. Bush, for example, took part in a Super Bowl coin toss in 2002 and bantered with Jim Nantz of CBS Sports before the network’s 2004 broadcast of the event.