How Hillary Clinton Helped Make Joe Biden’s Howard Stern Interview Happen

Howard Stern

Of President Joe Biden’s myriad quips and Dad joke-level zingers at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner — including around the thorny issue of his age and aimed at former President Donald Trump — one joke, in particular, referenced a notable, recent move by his campaign.

Speaking to a crowd of media figures, A-list celebrities and Beltway power brokers who’d just wrapped up their dinner, Biden started serving up one punchline after another. About halfway through his tight 15, the president referred to his recent sitdown with talk radio host Howard Stern.

“I have higher standards,” Biden said from the podium. “I do interviews with strong independent journalists who millions of people actually listen to…like Howard Stern.”

Goofing on Stern’s journalistic credibility landed with the audience, which, despite the spectacle of the star-studded event, is meant to honor the bravery, tenacity and grit of some of the best reporters in the nation. But appearing on the former shock jock’s SiriusXM show could in fact be a massive turnout opportunity for any presidential candidate — particularly for Biden, who has sat for interviews with far fewer outlets and journalists overall (or Stern-like personalities) than his recent predecessors during his three years in the Oval Office.

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The power of a sitdown on his show has been touted by Stern for years. He explained this while speaking about his relentless 2016 campaign to get Hillary Clinton into his studio. 

“I thought that if I interviewed with Hillary that she would reach a new audience,” Stern said when appearing in 2019 on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. “What if Hillary had come on and forgotten politics for a second, but what if we could have talked about her humanity, why she got into public service?” The longtime radio host believed that would have helped to “humanize” Clinton, whose even lengthier life in public service left him with “a million questions” about her honest thoughts and life she’s lived. 

That interview did eventually happen. But not until December 2019, six months after Stern’s comments to Colbert. While it won Clinton no presidency, Stern was right that their wide-ranging sit-down did plenty in terms of her opening up to let the world know more about her. The two discussed Trump, her crushing 2016 election loss, her romance with husband Bill and, in a true reveal, just what former President George W. Bush whispered to her during Trump’s inauguration speech in 2020 that made her face light up (Bush apparently leaned in, saying: “Well, that was some weird shit”). 

Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush at Donald Trump’s 2020 inauguration.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Knowing this, it may not be surprising to learn now that Clinton took it upon herself to do the Democratic incumbent a favor and help broker the president’s newsmaking interview with Stern, as was confirmed on the Monday episode of Stern’s wrap-up show on Biden.

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Executive producer Gary Dell’Abate told Stern, “Believe me, there were a lot of people who were involved in helping this booking from people inferred on all that stuff — but you know who was super helpful on this? Really, really helpful. Hillary Clinton.”

When Stern replied that he didn’t know that, Dell’Abate added, “Her people really let Biden’s people know this was a good place to be.”

Dell’Abate said the interview was in the works for four years, but that it “became very serious probably about three months ago, and then once it was done, man it moved at, like, warp speed.”

Whether it opens up Stern Nation to support a second Biden Administration remains to be seen.

Just how influential is Howard Stern in 2024, over 30 years after he earned household name status and declared himself “king of all media” (at the time, said media included pay-per-view and VHS tapes)? His following is certainly undeniable: a record-shattering contract with SiriusXM has led him to form two channels, Howard 100 and Howard 101. His contract has been renewed, and his die-hard followers are fans for life — as Stern explained to The Hollywood Reporter in 2019.

Stern was a vocal supporter of Clinton, both in 2008 and again in 2016. But said he saw before others how tough it would be for her to beat Trump. He said his listeners span the country, and that he saw in that final stretch that Hillary wasn’t connecting with them. “There’s a segment of my audience that really gets turned on to people they thought they hated because we tap into their humanity. They were like, ‘Fuck Lady Gaga, why are you having her on?’ And then it’s over, and they go, ‘Shit man, I’m going to go see her in concert,’” he said. 

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His close friend Jimmy Kimmel agreed, as he wrote for THR in a 2017 op-ed: “The foundation that has been laid by years of refusing to compromise is strong, and as a result, Howard’s interviews with movie stars, comedians, musicians and politicians go deeper and further than any in broadcasting.”

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