Radio hosts say Biden campaign staff asked questions before interviews

WASHINGTON — Two radio hosts said Saturday that President Joe Biden’s campaign staff have given them questions to ask him in recent interviews.

The move, which is not standard journalistic practice, came as Biden’s campaign worked to contain the damage following his much-criticized debate performance.

“The questions were sent to me for approval,” Andrea Lawful-Sanders, host of WURD’s “The Source” in Philadelphia, said in an interview with CNN.

“I got multiple questions. Eight of them,” she told CNN host Victor Blackwell, who noted that the hosts’ questions to the president were similar. “And the four that were chosen were the questions that I approved.”

The other presenter who interviewed Biden, WAUK’s Earl Ingram, who was on the same CNN panel, did not dispute Lawful-Sanders’ account of how the questions were chosen. He did not provide his own account to CNN, but later told ABC News that he had “been given some questions for Biden.”

Following criticism over the revelation that Biden campaign officials had offered suggested questions to radio hosts before they interviewed the president this week, a source familiar with the president’s booking operations told NBC News, “While interview hosts have always been free to ask any question they wish, we will refrain from offering suggested questions going forward.”

The source confirmed that “we” referred to both the White House and Biden’s campaign.

NBC News has reached out to Civic Media, the platform for Ingram’s show, to confirm his comments.

On Sunday, the director of WURD Radio announced that the station and Lawful-Sanders “have mutually agreed to part ways with immediate effect.”

CEO Sara M. Lomax said in a statement that the interview, which used predetermined questions provided by the White House, “runs counter to our tradition of being an independent media outlet that is accountable to its listeners.”

Lomax also said the interview was “arranged and negotiated” by “Lawful Sanders without the knowledge, consultation or cooperation of WURD management.”

During the interview with Ingram, which aired in full on Thursday, Biden told listeners he had “a bad night” and added that he “messed up, I made a mistake.” The president also compared his 90-minute debate performance to his 3½ years in office.

Biden participated in several events in the week following the debate, though he often used a teleprompter, which is often standard for politicians.

The Biden campaign, in a statement, cited the president’s press conferences and ABC News interview in response to Lawful-Sanders’ comments.Scott Olson / Getty Images

But the debate raised questions about Biden’s ability to move quickly. Biden’s campaign had pointed to his public appearances, including interviews, in an attempt to deflect criticism.

In a statement, Biden campaign spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said it’s “not at all unusual for interviewees to share topics they’d rather have.” She pointed to Biden’s participation in a press briefing and Friday’s ABC News interview, noting that “Americans have had several opportunities to see him unscheduled since the debate.”

“We do not impose any conditions on the acceptance of these questions for interviews, and presenters are always free to ask whatever questions they think will best inform their listeners,” Hitt said.

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