Tuesday marked an eventful day at the White House as not only was there a press briefing with Press Secretary Jen Psaki (and a packed one at that), but President Biden gave a speech on the coronavirus and ended up taking questions from eight different reporters on the virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), and illegal immigration.
Of course, Fox’s Peter Doocy was a central player in questioning both, but he also had help from reporters such as McClatchy’s Francesca Chambers, the Daily Caller’s Shelby Talcott, and Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann. And in an admirable move, liberal outlets joined Doocy in firing off Cuomo questions.
Doocy first had his go at Psaki, which led off with a question about whether the White House “thinks” it’s “fair” for New York to implement a vaccine mandate even though there are “people who may have a religious reason for not wanting the vaccine or might just be waiting for the FDA to approve it fully before they get it.”
Following some Psaki word salad about deferring to local officials, he asked a serious of questions about Cuomo and the report from New York Attorney General Letia James (D) (click “expand”):
DOOCY: Okay, and then I know that the President is going to speak a little bit about his thoughts on this attorney general report in New York. In February, he invited Governor Cuomo to the White House for the next governor’s conference. Does that invitation still stand?
PSAKI: I think I’ll let the President speak to his views later this afternoon.
DOOCY: Okay, and then the Justice Department recently dropped its civil rights investigation into Governor Cuomo’s handling of the Covid nursing home deaths. Does the administration want the Justice Department to initiate a civil rights investigation into these harassment allegations revealed today?
PSAKI: We do something new here that feels foreign from the last four years and allow the Justice Department to act independently on investigations.
DOOCY: Okay and then the New York attorney general says about the Cuomo accusers, “I believe them.” Does the President believe them?
PSAKI: Again, the President’s going to speak to this later this afternoon, so I will point to — to his comments and I’m sure you will all be tuning in. He also said he’d take some questions.
Also during the briefing, the AP’s Jonathan Lemire, ABC’s Cecilia Vega, and the Daily Mail’s Nikki Schwab had Cuomo questions, but Psaki was mostly non-committal as she insisted she’d let Biden’s comments a few hours later speak for itself.
In response to Vega, Psaki did admit she didn’t “know that anyone could have watched this morning and not found the allegations to be abhorrent.”
A few reporters later, one journalist brought up illegal immigration and how the record summer numbers were in contradiction to the administration’s thinking they would fall off from the spring as temperatures warmed.
Psaki defended the open borders policy by saying temperatures weren’t the only factor and then boasted that only does Title 42 remain due to the pandemic, but said the administration has “made great progress in moving people through border patrol facilities.”
After Wegmann noted Psaki said on Wednesday that “we’re not going to take options off the table,” Psaki insisted that lockdowns are “not under consideration.”
Right. Good luck squaring those two things.
The Washington Post’s Tyler Pager went in a different direction with Psaki and then President Biden, lobbying both of them for the White House to further institute vaccine mandates modeled off of New York City’s upcoming requirements.
But she quickly found herself back under the gun from Chambers pressing on the illogical travel bans for vaccinated people from Canada and Europe, and Talcott on how Black New Yorkers could be disproportionately impacted by vaccine mandates based on their vaccination rate (click “expand”):
CHAMBERS: The White House has stressed that it’s following the health and the science when it comes to Covid-19, and that has been the basis for the ongoing international travel restrictions. But what is the health or scientific basis for the travel restrictions on vaccinated individuals from Europe or Canada or other nations when people who are unvaccinated from other countries are allowed to come into the United States?
PSAKI: I would certainly point you to our health and medical teams who make these decisions and evaluate what we need to do from a public health perspective to keep the American people safe at a time where the Delta variant is rising. And one where we are very cognizant about keeping the American people safe.
CHAMBERS: And a quick follow up on that, when it comes to countries that have more vaccinated individuals than the United States does at this point as the percentage of population, what is the basis for those restrictions again?
PSAKI: Again, I would point you to our public health officials who are leading this effort in determining when we can raise or end those restrictions. We certainly understand there is a desire to do that by many people in the United States, many people around the world. We understand that. I just don’t have an update on it. And when that will happen, go ahead.
TALCOTT: So, I wanted to ask about the New York City proof of vaccination. So, New York City data shows that the rate for Black New Yorkers are — is sitting at 31 percent which is a lot lower than some of the other percentages and this is similar to the national level, according to CDC data, so is a White House concerned at all that the burdens imposed by governments and businesses like this New York City proof of vaccination is going to fall heaviest on these minority communities?
PSAKI: Well, I would say, Shelby, that it’s our objective to continue to close that equity gap and to make sure we are, as a federal government, working in partnership with city — or states like New York, cities like New York City to make sure we are making the vaccine accessible, available. We’re meeting people where they are. We’re partnering with a wide — right — public health officials and we will continue to do exactly that, because we certainly don’t want this to be a barrier of entry for communities. We also believe that, at a time when the delta variant is spreading like wildfire across the country, especially to unvaccinated communities that it’s important and — and country — and cities and communities should be able to take steps to incentivize — get more people getting vaccinated.
Moving to the Biden presser, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins led off with four questions about Cuomo, which gave Biden the opening to announce he was calling on Cuomo to step down.
PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor also inquired about any possible prosecution of Cuomo and Biden’s message to the accusers, which led Biden to admit that not only had he not read the report, but he didn’t “know the detail of it.”
As for Doocy, he had a brief exchange with Biden on how he squares his concern about the coronavirus with allowing record numbers of illegal immigrants into the country (click “expand”):
DOOCY: You just said there is no wall high enough and no ocean wide enough to protect us from the virus. So, what is the thinking behind letting untested and unvaccinated migrants cross the southern border into U.S. cities in record numbers?
BIDEN: There is — what we’re doing — we have not withdrawn the order that is sometimes critical — or criticized saying that unvaccinated people should be — go back across the border. But unaccompanied children is a different story because there’s — that’s the most humane thing to do — is to test them and to treat them and not send them back alone.
To see the relevant transcript from the briefing and presser on August 3, click here.