President Biden phoned Al Roker on Thursday to land a cameo in NBC’s coverage of the 2021 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade — repeating his “America is Back” mantra to the weatherman even as inflation and sky-high gas prices have made this the most expensive turkey day ever.
Roker acted as though he was surprised, though the performance was unconvincing, as presidential aides typically notify journalists in advance of such calls and TV news anchors rarely answer their phones mid-broadcast.
Roker, standing on a New York street, said on live TV, “Hold on, my phone is ringing. Just a second. Oh my gosh, look at who’s calling! Hello, hello, Mr. President?”
“Hello, Al. How are you doing, pal?” said Biden, who is spending the holiday at a billionaire’s compound in Nantucket.
“Oh, Dr. Biden and Mr. President, thank you so much! Happy Thanksgiving to you!” Roker said.
Biden said, in apparent reference to a prior guest, “A New York firefighter —”
Roker said, “That’s right. We had a New York firefighter here. And it’s so good — good for you calling, we thank you so much. What’s your message to the American folks on this Thanksgiving day?”
Biden offered some positive spin, despite his own plunging approval ratings amid the highest inflation in 31 years and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases nearly two years into the pandemic.
This year, the classic Thanksgiving dinner of turkey and sides jumped 14 percent, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“My message is, after two years, you’re back, America is back. There’s nothing we’re unable to overcome, Al. And you’re one of the reasons for that, pal. You’re always up, you’re always rooting,” Biden said.
Roker replied, “Well we appreciate it, Mr. President. Thank you so much. I hope you’re going to continue to watch the parade. Santa is coming. Santa is coming, Mr. President!”
“I’m waiting for Santa,” Biden joked.
Biden signed off the call saying, “wish we were there with you, Al. Nice to see you, pal.”
Roker then returned to his faux-surprise, exclaiming to viewers unfamiliar with presidential interview procedures, “How did he get my phone number? Well he’s the president of the United States, I guess he can do that!”
Roker fist-bumped Biden in January at the president’s inaugural parade in DC. And in 2013, he gave then-Vice President Biden a celebratory handshake at that parade.
Although the veteran NBC personality fired off just one question, it’s likely to count as one of Biden’s fewer than two dozen interviews so far as president — far fewer than his six most recent predecessors, including Ronald Reagan, who doubled Biden’s number of interviews despite being shot in the lung two months after taking office.