On Thursday afternoon, President Biden took a might tumble when he fell nearly flat on his face at the U.S. Air Force Academy. Such a fall drew eyeballs and defenses from the “big three” of ABC, CBS, and NBC with the conservative drinking game words of capitalizing, pouncing and seizing on it.
Over on the liberal cable networks CNN and MSNBC, both (largely) saw no reason to be concerned and took Biden and his regime at their word. But that’s where the comparisons ended with 33 minutes and 32 seconds on CNN, but a measly 18 minutes and 37 seconds on MSNBC.
A combined total of 52 minutes and nine seconds barely edged out the 50 minutes and 55 seconds they spent in 2020 in a 24-hour period on July 15 and 16 fixating on President Trump slowly walking down a ramp at West Point and, in a separate event, holding a water glass with two hands. Then, CNN and MSNBC said the incidents triggered serious questions about his health.
When comparing the two by network, MSNBC’s 18:37 on Biden was just over 10 minutes behind their Trump coverage of 28 minutes and 42 seconds. This was due in large part to the fact that, of the 16 shows NewsBusters examined, 10 had zero mention of the fall.
As for CNN, their Biden coverage surprisingly topped their Trump coverage at 22:13 (despite the Biden coverage having fetched only 23 seconds over the final six hours and 45 minutes), but again, the rhetoric paled in comparison.
The first MSNBC mention came at 3:22 p.m. Eastern with NBC producer Gary Grumbach telling host Katy Tur that Biden “appears…fine” and “[t]he White House communications director tweeted as much.” Well, that settles it then!
It then took over three hours as Deadline: White House and The Beat ignored it before The ReidOut mocked the reaction (click “expand”):
REID: I do feel like Biden has this misunderestimated thing, right, where people assume, oh, he’s too old, he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and then he just keeps delivering. Today, he tripped over a — I guess there was like a sandbag on…
JEN PSAKI: Yes.
REID: And Twitter and the writer going crazy.
PSAKI: It’s currently dominating Fox News prime time.
REID: It’s the most important thing in the world. First of all, Donald Trump is 76. He’s not exactly young.
REID: And, you know, it’s the advance team or whoever’s fault that they put a sandbag in front of him. I trip in my own house. I mean, it’s not easy.
PSAKI: Same. Same.
CHARLIE SYKES: Well, also, I’m glad that Jen highlighted what’s going on over at Fox News right now, because it is absolutely essential for them to run Joe Biden falling down on a loop, because they don’t want to focus on what’s been playing out over the last week. I mean, Joe Biden had a very, very good week being president of the United States.
On All In, host Chris Hayes was put at ease by former Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain informing him that Biden’s “robust mentally” and “robust physically,” so “what happened to him today could happen to anyone that’s up there”.
Rewind to 2020 and Hayes’s fill-in host Ali Velshi reveled in Trump not having “so great” of a weekend.
Fast-forward to Morning Joe, it was yet another filled with guests that could best be described as borderline obsessive Valentines Day crushes of Biden. Co-host Joe Scarborough taunted those opposed to Biden, saying “he may have trouble…walking across the stage, but the man knows how to get things done in DC better than any president since Reagan.” Later, Scarborough reveled in Trump comparing his ramp walk to Biden’s fall.
Wife and co-host Mika Brzezinski played White House flack: “He was quickly helped up by Secret Service and pointed to something on the stage. The White House communications staff says the President tripped over a sandbag on the platform. The President returned to his seat on stage, ceremony continued. Afterwards, he shook hands with the graduates and posed for selfies.”
But when Trump walked down the ramp, Brzezinski said Trump’s visit “sparked some concerns about the President’s own health.”
Unofficial White House flunkie Jonathan Lemire of Politico bemoaned the reaction (click “expand”):
Yes, in terms of President Biden, White House says he is fine. It was a hard fall. He tripped over a sandbag that was there on stage. He was clearly in pain afterwards. He was ginger — as he gingerly sat down afterwards, but he continued throughout the ceremony, got back on Air Force One. As you say, he did bump his head on the Marine One as he stepped off the helicopter on the white house lawn, but he does seem he’s fine.
Yes, on a serious note, this is, and you’re right, we have spent, correctly, the majority of this block talking about the debt ceiling bill and that accomplishment, but presidents do fall. They do. They trip and fall. President Obama did a few times. But no president has been 81 years old and run for re-election while they did so. It — his age is an issue here. The Republicans immediately jumped on this. They blasted it all over social media. The White House was very quick to be defensive. They pride themselves, this White House, on being above the fray. We don’t engage on Twitter. Yesterday, they were all over Twitter because they knew, they know, polls show that Americans do have concerns about the President’s age. This is going to be a story line they have to deal with.
Back in 2020, Lemire huffed this added to “questions about some of the information reported in President Trump’s previous physicals” and was thus “harder” for Trump to argue he had more mental and physical stamina than Biden.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson joined in on Biden, bemoaning how “on Fox and other networks, it will be shown again and again and again because that’s what they do.”
Aside from a request from CNN medical contributor Jonathan Reiner that Biden try and use a cane (and was hyperbolic in 2020 when analyzing Trump using a ramp), CNN was similarly obsequious for Biden.
On The Lead, Inside Politics Sunday host Abby Phillip griped that “Republicans…are very eagerly sending around old clips of, you know, articles talking about when Trump kind of tiptoed down at a slope and seem to be worried about falling in a situation and how that was interpreted by the media.” When Trump went to West Point, Phillip insisted Trump’s stretching of facts meant the West Point ramp couldn’t possibly be dismissed as not something to worry about.
AC360 similarly played it as the White House likely wanted them to (click “expand”):
COOPER: Most of the time when someone says they were sandbagged, they don’t mean it literally. Today, at the Air Force Academy commencement in Colorado Springs, President Biden tripped over a sandbag and fell. He had just been handing out diplomas and given what The New York Times described as a “energetic speech.” But because this wasn’t the President’s first stumble and he is 80 years old, the incident fairly or not, has gotten a lot of attention and raised questions. CNN’s Phil Mattingly is at the White House for us tonight. And I so understand the President just got back to the White House. What did he say about this?
PHIL MATTINGLY: Anderson, the President had several hours on Air Force One to think through his response before he met reporters on his way back into the White House from Marine One and he chose levity, and he pointed a very clear finger at the guilty party. Take a listen.
BIDEN: I got sandbagged. No questions.
MATTINGLY: Having a little jig there at the end to try and connote I think the energy that we saw for most of the day at the Air Force Academy and I think when you talk to White House officials, they make clear that they believe he is fine. Everything they have seen and heard from the President is that he’s fine.
COOPER: How was it initially handled by the White House?
MATTINGLY: Anderson, it is interesting. White House officials were very quick. The communications director, Ben LaBolt bold very quickly getting to Twitter making clear that the President was ok ay, making clear that the sandbag was what actually was the issue where the President tripped over. The President in the video, if you watch it points to the sandbag. I think the irony to some degree of this and you reference what was said in The New York Times report, this tradition, which is something that spans presidencies and where a President going to a service academy graduation, not only includes remarks, the President spoke for over 30 minutes, but it also includes standing there and exchanging salutes, shaking hands and handing the diploma to every single present member of the graduating class. It is hundreds of cadets today, something that went off without any issues whatsoever. It was when the President handed off that last diploma, he turned around to walk back to his seat to finish the ceremony that he tripped. So it was a very long day, several hours, the President engaged throughout the entire time. It was when it was over that he actually tripped, but according to White House officials, totally fine.
In the 4:00 a.m. Eastern hour, CNN Newsroom Live co-hosts Max Foster and Bianca Nobilo poked fun at it with Foster quipping “Joe Biden’s ego may have been bruised a bit, but the White House says the U.S. President was fine” with Noblio adding Biden “didn’t appear to be hurt and later made light of the mishap”.
Skip ahead a few hours to CNN This Morning and White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond hyped that Biden did “a little bit of a two-step” walking back into the White House “to show folks that he’s doing just fine,” which was also “how the White House said he was doing.”
Fill-in co-host Erica Hill joined in the comedic angle: “Well, two-step, the sandbag shuffle, we’ll come up with lots of names for it.”