President Biden steered clear of jokes Friday night in his first late-night television appearance as president on NBC’s Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
Instead, Mr. Biden scolded the “extreme elements” of the Republican party for a lack of bipartisanship in Washington, saying they make it hard to reach across the aisle.
Appearing virtually, Mr. Biden bemoaned the lack of support among Senate Republicans for his roughly $2 trillion spending bill, which would expand the social safety net. Passed last month by House Democrats, the measure would fund universal preschool, expand Medicaid and offer green energy tax credits.
When Mr. Fallon noted that he saw Republicans and Democrats getting along at last weekend’s Kennedy Center honors, Mr. Biden used the opening to reprimand Republicans, suggesting former President Trump was responsible for the division.
“The truth is that before COVID hit, the Trump arm of the Republican party, which seems to be the Republican party now, didn’t even show up to the Kennedy Center,” he said. “They didn’t even go to the awards.”
Mr. Biden said Republicans and Democrats used to get along well, recalling his friendship with Sen. Bob Dole, a Republican icon, who passed away this week.
Earlier Friday, Mr. Biden delivered the eulogy at Mr. Dole’s funeral.
“We used to have a lot of that relationship and there still exists, except we have the QAnon and extreme elements of the Republican Party that it seems to me Donald Trump keeps feeding with the big lie, it makes it awfully hard,” he said.
“There’s a lot of Republicans in Congress I think would agree with that,” Mr. Biden continued.
In an appearance designed to improve his sagging poll numbers and blunt criticism that he doesn’t engage with the media, Mr. Biden left the jokes to Mr. Fallon.
He did tell a humorous story about his daughter, Ashley, giving a television interview as a small child.
When Mr. Fallon asked the president if he looked at his poll numbers, Mr. Biden shot back, “not any more.” The president said that he only looks at polls when his approval rating is in the 60% range.
“I appreciate the honesty,” Mr. Fallon responded.
Mr. Biden attributed his low approval ratings, which are hovering around 36%, on disinformation campaigns.
“We’ve been at it less than a year. A lot has happened. People are afraid. People are worried. People are getting so much inaccurate information — I don’t mean about me — but about the situation,” he said. “They’ve been told Armageddon is on the way.”
“There is a lot of anxiety,” he said. “My job is to be straightforward, shoot from the shoulder, let people know exactly what the truth is, and lay out how I’m going to make life better for them.”
Mr. Biden largely stuck to his standard talking points, touting the jobs he claims will be created by his infrastructure bill. He also urged viewers to get a COVID-19 booster shot.
“This booster shot not only brings the levels back up of immunity to deal with fighting off the virus but brings it up exponentially. So if you want to make sure you are ok..,” Mr. Biden said.