WASHINGTON — It appears that President Biden will not be sitting down for a Super Bowl interview with Fox after all.
After a day of dueling statements and not a small amount of confusion, the White House indicated late Friday that a planned interview was no longer on the president’s schedule, contrary to comments from Fox earlier in the day.
It is a tradition for presidents to grant an interview to the network broadcasting the Super Bowl, and Mr. Biden had participated when NBC and CBS aired the game. But he balked at this year’s host: Fox, whose cable news network, home to Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, has a less-than-cordial relationship with the current White House.
Briefly, however, it seemed like a compromise had been reached.
After turning down a proposal from Fox News, the White House pursued an alternate arrangement: an interview with Fox Soul, a relatively obscure streaming channel aimed at Black audiences. Mr. Biden would be interviewed by Mike Hill, a Fox Sports broadcaster, and Vivica A. Fox, a Black actress and television host.
Then Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said on Friday that the Fox Corporation, which oversees both Fox News and Fox Soul, had intervened and canceled it.
Hours later, Fox said the Biden appearance would go ahead — and even publicized that Ms. Fox and Mr. Hill had already flown to Washington. “There was some initial confusion,” the corporation said in a statement. “Fox Soul looks forward to interviewing the president for Super Bowl Sunday.”
Silence from the White House ensued. And on Friday night, Mr. Biden’s team lowered the hammer.
“As we said earlier, we had arranged an interview with Fox Sports host Mike Hill and Vivica A. Fox with the president ahead of the Super Bowl, and Fox Corporation had the interview canceled,” the White House said in a statement. “Fox has since put out a statement indicating the interview was rescheduled, which is inaccurate.”
How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.
Fox did not comment on Friday night. But a person familiar with its internal discussions said that senior leadership had simply been unaware of the prospective interview by Fox Soul. Once executives learned of the conversations between the White House and Fox Soul, they encouraged the interview to go forward, the person said.
The outreach to Fox Soul appeared to be an effort by Mr. Biden’s aides to sidestep the news anchors on Fox News, but evade criticism for dodging an interview.
Begun in 2020, Fox Soul is operated by a division of Fox that oversees the company’s broadcast TV affiliates. It has no editorial overlap with Fox News, the No. 1-rated cable news network. The channels are not comparable in terms of audience; for instance, Fox News has 23.7 million followers on Twitter, and Fox Soul has 7,000.
A White House official said Mr. Biden and his advisers decided to pursue Fox Soul instead of Fox News because of a desire to reach a different audience.
Mr. Biden’s snub will mark the first time since 2018 that a president skipped an interview before the Super Bowl. Former President Donald J. Trump declined an interview that year with NBC.
Tensions have simmered between the Biden White House and Fox News, whose marquee conservative hosts regularly assail the president, his agenda and his family. Any prospective interview before the Super Bowl would most likely have been conducted by a news anchor like Bret Baier or Martha MacCallum rather than an opinion host like Mr. Carlson.
Still, high-profile members of Mr. Biden’s cabinet have gone on Fox News in the past. Gene Sperling, a senior adviser, appeared on Ms. MacCallum’s program on Wednesday evening. Pete Buttigieg, the transportation secretary, regularly appears on the network.
Mr. Baier brought up Mr. Biden’s lack of responsiveness during Fox News’s State of the Union coverage on Tuesday night. “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,” Mr. Baier told viewers. “We are running out of days.”
Harold Ford Jr., a Fox News co-host and former Democratic congressman, told Mr. Baier that he hoped the White House would play ball. “He should accept the invitation,” he said of Mr. Biden. “It’s a tradition that should be continued.”