Each time I see a press conference where President Trump is there, the reporters ask questions and he always answers them. Is he forced to do so by any law or something, or does the President just answer because it is part of democracy?

  • 8
    "the reporters ask questions and he always answers them" [citation needed]
    – Alexander
    Apr 19, 2020 at 20:29
  • 7
    Saying words should not be mistaken for answering questions, as any one whose been a member of a SE site for any length of time should be well aware of ;) Apr 20, 2020 at 0:08

3 Answers 3


He is not obliged to hold them at all, much less answer questions, or any specific questions.

The only requirement of addressing anyone is the state of the union, and that is not required to be a speech, it could be written.

He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union...

Article II, Section 3, US Constitution

That same section also says he has to receive ambassadors and other public ministers, but says nothing about answering questions there either.

  • 16
    Not only could it be written, it could be written on a napkin. Or delivered in the form of an interpretive dance.
    – Valorum
    Apr 18, 2020 at 10:28
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    That’s the only constitutional reporting requirement, but there are many other public and private reporting requirements Imposed on the President by legislation. Just for example, the Presidential Records Act. But it’s true that there’s no legislation requiring him to hold press conferences or answer questions from the press.
    – Mike Scott
    Apr 19, 2020 at 7:23
  • Still, there are types of questions politicians usually don't answer, for good reasons.
    – vsz
    Apr 19, 2020 at 20:58

There is no constitutional oblication, but it is an axiom of a democratic system that a president who wants to achieve his or her political aims must do so by persuasion.

A president in a democracy who refused to meet the press and answer their questions would be neglecting one of the chief advantages of their position. By holding press conferences the president can tell people about his or her policies and present arguments for supporting them. The president can also use the forum to (verbally) attack their opponents. Presidents use this to build a coalition of support, both in the Legislature and the country. The two go together, as Senators and Representatives are much more likely to support a proposal that is popular.

Now there are other ways to get your message across, but meeting the press is an effective one. If you just published your own messages people will ignore them. They are much more interested in seeing the President defend his or her policies and will watch news programs, or buy newspapers but not watch a political advert.

So the president has to deal with the press and answer their questions to get on the news programs and so get his or her message across.

There is no constitutional imperative. But all Presidents do need to meet the press if they want to be successful.

  • 16
    "If you just published your own messages people will ignore them." - Trump's 77 million Twitter followers beg to differ. Apr 18, 2020 at 14:47
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    Well that is an interesting observation.
    – James K
    Apr 18, 2020 at 15:33
  • I think it's not so much that people are unwilling to listen to politicians without hearing the other side, and more that the media gives them free publicity even when they sometimes ask hard questions. Before the Internet there was no way a President could reliably send a message to 77 million people at once for free, they had to rely on the media to do it for them. Now we're in a new frontier, and maybe the press conference will give way to new forms of public speaking by politicians, like Reddit AMAs. Apr 21, 2020 at 3:14

The other answers are overlooking a fairly obvious point. While there is no requirement for a President to hold press conferences, or to answer press questions, most if not all Presidents in the past century have done so. (The first formal press conference seems to have been held in 1913, during the Wilson administration: https://www.whitehousehistory.org/press-room/press-timelines/the-white-house-and-the-press-timeline ) Most Presidents have apparently thought that it was a good idea to keep the public informed.

However, you may have noticed that press conferences under the current administration are rather different than in previous ones. The current incumbent apparently likes to hear himself talk. His "answers" to questions are often not responsive, and reportedly* descend into attacks on the reporter asking the question, or their employer.

*I say reportedly, since I have other things to do with my time rather than watch press conferences. However, a search for "president attacks reporter at press conference" returns in excess of 29 million hits.

  • 11
    "the other answers" are answering the question, "is there a requirement to answer"
    – awsirkis
    Apr 17, 2020 at 19:14
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    @awsirkis: One word answers are rather frowned upon. Indeed, I don't think the system would even let me post an answer consisting of a simple "No", Thus I am assuming that since "is there a requirement to answer" is so obviously just that one small word, the OP must want rather more information, which I tried to supply.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 18, 2020 at 16:11
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    @jamesqf One-word answers are frowned upon because they lack supporting evidence and references, not because they lack a personal rant/speculation/commentary that doesn’t answer the question.
    – user76284
    Apr 20, 2020 at 10:00
  • @user76284: But the only "supporting evidence" in this case would be to read the US Constitution regarding the duties of the President. Nor does stating observed facts constitute a rant of any sort.
    – jamesqf
    Apr 20, 2020 at 23:25
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    @jamesqf Unsolicited opinions/speculations about whether a public official “likes to hear themselves talk” is not the kind of thing that answers are for.
    – user76284
    Apr 20, 2020 at 23:52

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