A prescheduled livestream featuring President Joe Biden and Pope Francis was abruptly canceled, sparking complaints from media outlets and journalists.
Biden is in Rome for an official visit. So far, trimmed footage of his motorcade’s arrival at the courtyard of the Apostolic Palace has been released.
On Oct. 28, the prearranged livestream of Biden’s meeting with Francis was canceled. It is not clear if the Vatican or the Biden administration had requested the broadcast be canceled.
The livestream would have documented “Biden actually greeting Francis in the palace Throne Room, as well as the live footage of the two men sitting down to begin their private talks in Francis’ library, at which time the cameras would have stopped running,” noted ABC News.
The Vatican said it will release the edited footage to accredited media outlets.
The changes reflect a new “normal procedure” established in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters. He did not explain why the coverage had been dialed back after fuller coverage had originally been announced. The Vatican has livestream previous visits from heads of state, including President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Biden has already come under fire for his distance from the media.
“President Biden has granted one-fifth as many interviews as Donald Trump, one-eighth as many as Barack Obama and half as many as a nearly assassinated Ronald Reagan did at this point in their presidencies,” noted Steve Nelson of The Post on Oct. 21.
The most recent livestream cancellation has only further irritated members of the press.
“Reporters have been covering the papal audiences of American presidents since Woodrow Wilson sat [with] Benedict [XV] in January 1919,” tweeted Steven Portnoy, a reporter for CBS News Radio.
“Our fully vaccinated [and] masked pool of reporters is ready to continue this public service, mindful of its own safety as well as the leaders’, to ensure independent coverage of the first Catholic president in 60 [years] meeting with the head of the Catholic church,” he said.
— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) October 28, 2021
Portnoy is also the White House Correspondents’ Association President.
“The [White House] told us the bilateral meeting would involve Biden [and] Francis discussing substantive matters of global significance ‘including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, tackling the climate crisis, and caring for the poor.’ Such an international news event demands independent coverage,” he said.
“The pope, 84, has dismissed a push by more conservative US bishops to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support legal access to abortion,” per The New York Post. This would impact both President Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
The United States bishops are scheduled to meet next month to review the proposal.
Biden is America’s second Catholic president. He has met with the pope on three other occasions prior to assuming the presidency.