Former ESPN host describes scripted interview with Biden: ‘To the word’

by WorldTribune Staff, April 3, 2024

For a 2021 interview with Joe Biden, then-ESPN host Sage Steele said she was provided with a script by the sports network’s higher-ups and ordered to follow it “to the word.”

“That was an interesting experience in its own right because it was so structured,” Steele told Fox News Digital. “And I was told, ‘You will say every word that we write out, you will not deviate from the script and go.’ ”

Sage Steele interviewed Joe Biden in March 2021. / Video Image

Steele said she couldn’t definitively say whether ESPN sent the questions to the White House in advance of the interview but seemed confident that is “what happened.”

Everything that Steele said to the Biden during the interview, she said, came from ESPN’s c-suite.

“To the word. Every single question was scripted, gone over dozens of times by many editors and executives. Absolutely. I was on script and was told not to deviate,” Steele told Fox News Digital. “It was very much ‘This is what you will ask. This is how you will say it. No follow-ups, no follow-ups. Next.’ … This went up to the fourth floor, as we said, where all the bosses, the top executives, the decision makers are, the president of our company, the CEO, where they all worked.”

The script for that March 2021 interview included questions mostly pertaining to pro sports leagues attempting to restore normalcy during the Covid pandemic, and vaccine hesitancy among athletes and fans.

Steele’s interview made headlines after Biden said he supported the Major League Baseball All-Star game boycott of Atlanta following the passage of Georgia’s election reform law.

But Steele, who last week launched her new podcast “The Sage Steele Show,” also noted that her brief interaction with Biden was “heartbreaking,” referring to his mental acuity.

“I think it’s really heartbreaking that the people who love Joe Biden and say they truly care about him have allowed it to get to this point,” Steele said. “So I’m not even looking at this from a political angle or my beliefs in anything. This is the human side of it. And when someone is struggling, we allow them to continue to be in the spotlight and put them out there in the first place when they knew there were issues? Of course, they had to know. So it’s a humanity thing with me where I don’t care where anyone stands and what they vote for or who they believe in. Do you really care about that person? As a father, as a husband, as an everything.”

Steele, who left ESPN last August after settling a lawsuit she had filed against the network alleging it violated her free speech rights, previously detailed how Biden “trailed off” in their pre-interview chat before taping.

“It was satellite, it wasn’t in person. We’re having a technical issue. And so I had to, like, BS. I had to chitchat waiting for us to start rolling,” Steele told Bill Maher on his “Club Random” podcast last fall. “Well, what he started to do, of course he has someone next to him, and they keep a black, like, curtain over the lens of the camera, so you can’t see him until the last second, but you can hear, and we’re chitchatting… So I can hear him, and he goes, ‘What is this for?’… And he’s, like, ‘Who am I talking to? Wait—what’s her name?’ ”

“I was going, ‘Oh, my God!’ ” Steele exclaimed. “And then he said, ‘SportsCenter. ESPN.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, ok.’ And so I said, you know, what do you say? ‘Hi, Mr. President. Nice to meet you.’ And so I’m trying just to fill time. And he said, ‘You know, I used to play football’… And so he started to tell football stories of his greatness. And again, I can’t see him. You can see the curtain… He goes, ‘And I have the best hands.’ What do you say to that?”

She later continued, “And then I said, ‘Oh, so you were a receiver.’ And he started to explain it. And here’s the saddest thing — his voice just trailed off. He said, ‘I was good,’ and then he went silent, and he goes, ‘Uhh… never mind.’ ”

Steele has since joined Maher’s Club Randon Studios, which produces her podcast.

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