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WASHINGTON — For the second year in a row, President Joe Biden is passing on the opportunity to sit down for a Super Bowl interview that could reach millions of Americans on Sunday — a move his advisors say is part of their larger communication strategy.
Biden’s aides believe many voters — already exhausted from a bruising political season — simply want to tune into the game. And that seeing the president pop up while waiting for kickoff might turn them off.
But some in his party worry about his decision to skip the opportunity so speak before millions of Americans who will already be tuned in for the game.
“Either he doesn’t have anything to say or his team is worried about what he might say or how he’d say it,” said a veteran Democratic campaign operative, adding that Biden should have given a national address after recent retaliatory strikes in the Middle East. “Regardless, it’s a problem.”
The broadcast networks rotate which carries the Super Bowl each year, and for much of the past 15 years, also booked a sitdown interview with the president to air before opening kickoff. CBS, which has the rights to the match-up this year, offered the president a 15-minute interview that would air online, a senior administration official said.
The network told the White House it would use three or four minutes of that interview to air on television during Super Bowl coverage, the official said. The White House did not feel inclined to do the interview at the start of what may be the longest general election in modern history, the official said.
“We hope viewers enjoy watching what they tuned in for — the game,” White House communications director Ben LaBolt said in a statement to NBC News.
His decision not to do the interview drew a quick response from his expected November rival, former President Donald Trump, who posted online that he would sit for the interview instead and that Biden’s decision was evidence of his cognitive state, a frequent line of attack.
Biden’s aides argue he has done network interviews in the past and will do so again when they deem it best serves their messaging. They believe the president has had an aggressive travel schedule in recent weeks, with plenty of engagements that have collectively reached millions of voters.
The Biden campaign hasn’t stayed away from the NFL this season though. The re-election effort aired ads during the first game last fall and on Thanksgiving Day in media markets in the key battlegrounds of Michigan and Wisconsin.
Last year, Biden’s team went back and forth with Fox about a potential interview. The White House ultimately agreed to sit down with the network’s little-known streaming channel Fox Soul.
Overall, Biden has participated in far fewer interviews compared to his predecessors. Since becoming president, Biden has done 86 interviews, versus 300 for Trump and 422 for former President Barack Obama at this point in their presidencies, according to data collected by The White House Transition Project’s Martha Kumar.
Trump skipped one year of pre-Super Bowl interviews during his time in office. Obama largely established the tradition, participating in the interviews each year during his two terms.
Biden did partake in a Super Bowl interview with CBS in 2021, just weeks after being sworn in, and in 2022, when NBC broadcast the game.