BTS meets with Joe Biden, draws viewers to White House press briefing


Korean band BTS appears at the daily press briefing with Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, in the Brady Press Briefing of the White House in Washington, DC, May 31, 2022, as they visit to discuss Asian inclusion and representation, and addressing anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

A White House press briefing on Tuesday saw a massive spike in viewers when K-pop megastars BTS stopped by to deliver remarks ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden.

The seven-member sensation, which has shattered records with its popular songs and music videos, drove more than 310,000 simultaneous viewers to tune into a livestream of the press briefing on the White House’s YouTube channel. The regularly occurring briefings, which as of late have centered on topics such as inflation and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, rarely generate anywhere near the audience size seen Tuesday.

The White House’s official video of a BTS-less briefing last Thursday, for instance, had garnered fewer than 16,000 total YouTube views as of Tuesday afternoon.

BTS came to the White House to talk to Biden about Asian inclusion and representation, and to discuss a sharp rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in recent years. Biden last year signed the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act in an effort to address that trend.

The Oval Office confab between the U.S. president and the South Korean boy band was set to follow a meeting between Biden and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. The two were slated to discuss the state of the economy and inflation, which the White House calls Biden’s “top economic priority.”

The pop stars, clad in nearly identical black suits and black ties, stood behind press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre at the lectern of the James Brady Briefing Room at the start of the briefing Tuesday afternoon.

The number of people watching the White House’s video immediately shot up when the briefing kicked off, even as the stream was initially plagued by sound issues.

“Hi, we’re BTS, and it is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to be able to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion and diversity,” the group’s leader RM told the crowd of reporters in English.

He also thanked Biden for the “important opportunity to speak about the important causes [and] remind ourselves of what we can do as artists.”

The other six members each spoke in Korean. The band took no questions and left the room.

Much of the audience checked out just as quickly. Within a few minutes of the group’s departure, more than 200,000 viewers had left the livestream.

“OK,” said National Economic Council Director Brian Deese with a sigh after the band left, prompting laughter.

“So I get to go home and tell my kids that BTS opened for me,” he said.


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