Continuing her streak of awful, no good, very bad days at the White House podium, Press Secretary Jen Psaki crashed and burned on Monday as she tried to explain away the Biden administration’s crisis at the border, responding to probing questions from Fox’s Peter Doocy and a whole cast of colleagues with bald-faced lies about the border being secure and how Facebook and Instagram ads will help deter illegal immigration.
After three reporters had also brought up the border (more on them shortly), Doocy began his turn with reporting from over the weekend: “[N]ow that Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley are letting adult migrants go without even issuing notices to appear. Is the Biden immigration policy just becoming more of like the honor system?”
Psaki insisted that such reporting was disinformation, calling it “an inaccurate depiction of what's happening at the border” because “there's no change in policy,” “[t]he border remains closed,” adults “should not attempt to cross illegally,” and people will only be allowed to stay under “narrow, narrow circumstances.”
Doocy quickly countered: “But if Secretary Mayorkas says the border is secure, the border is closed, how is that the case that these migrants are being processed on this side of the border and then put on a bus to the points unknown on this side of the border?”
Psaki stuck to her talking points, claiming families were only allowed to stay under “limited cases” and they’re tested for the coronavirus before being deported.
Doocy then produced some receipts playing Biden’s own words against him, leading Psaki to reply that the Fox reporter was an example of those who offer “language” that lacked “the full context”:
Two years ago, President Biden said: “We are nation that says you want to flee and you're fleeing opposition, you should come. They deserve to be heard. That's what we are.” Now, he says: “I can say quite clearly, don't come over.” So why was his position different campaigning than it is governing?
Further upping the ante, Doocy wondered whether the President’s “concern about” detention facilities “being a super spreader event where you've got 400 — kids stuffed into a pod built for 260.”
Psaki said the administration was abiding by all CDC measures, but Doocy became agitated with her Baghdad Bob routine (click “expand”):
PSAKI: These kids are tested. If they need to be quarantined, they are quarantined. We also follow CDC guidelines to ensure that they are kept safe. One of the reasons that it took us some time to have some of these facilities or some of the shelters open to a larger groups of kids is because we wanted to follow those CDC guidelines, so we certainly don't see it through that prison. We actually took the steps we did to keep these kids safe.
DOOCY: But where else in the country would it be ok to have 400 people in a space for 260 during the pandemic?
PSAKI: Well again, Peter, are — we are closely following the CDC guidelines. That's why we're opening up additional facilities —
PSAKI: — why they've been at limited capacity in a number of these shelters.
DOOCY: But, if I may, I don't know that there are CDC guidelines that say you could be open for 400 —
PSAKI: Are you talking about the shelters or are you talking about the Border Patrol —
DOOCY: — I’m talking about the Border Patrol facilities.
PSAKI: Apologies, I wasn't as understanding —
PSAKI: — your question.
PSAKI: Look, I think our objective is to move — this is one of the reasons this is such a focus every single day for the President and this administration. We want to move these kids as quickly as possible through these facilities and into the shelters where they — where there is safe spacing and then moved them into homes where there is safe spacing and we are concerned about the public health impact. That's why we're take putting in place a number of policies to expedite these processes.
DOOCY: But at that first stop, it's just not happening and that is part of the federal government that you guys are in charge of.
PSAKI: Well again. I think I've outlined — for you, specifically, even a number of steps that we have taken and we're taking to expedite processing at the border, to ensure that we're expediting the timeline because these border patrol facilities are not made for children. We want to move them, in part because of COVID, in part because they're not places that have educational, the health sources, and other resources that we believe these children should have access to. That's where all of our focus is on and why we're working to expedite things. We have a plan. We’re implementing it. And we’re confident we’re going to be successful.
Again, Doocy wasn’t the first to beat down the door on this White House. The Associated Press’s Josh Boak led off the Q&A with this: “In the spirit of transparency to rebuild public trust, when will reporters be allowed to tour facilities holding children who cross the southern border? And are there any concerns that the images from those tours might show that there’s a crisis?”
Always a steady hand, Reuters’ Steve Holland inquired about whether Biden administration officials would ask Latin American countries for “help” in “stem[ming] the tide of migrants,” and Psaki rattled off a truly comical list of actions meant to discourage illegal immigration.
Among the examples, Psaki cited radio spots, social media ads, and even a storyline on a El Salvadoran cartoon program. Really.
NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and Newsmax’s Emerald Robinson were also extremely effective, with the former pointing to the Cuellar photos and the latter calling out Psaki’s disinformation on deportation rates as well as the fact that millions are being spent to put illegal immigrants in hotels while National Guard members initially had to sleep in parking garages (click “expand”):
O’DONNELL: Now that the public is seeing some of the images because the congressional delegation provided some photos and descriptions about what they witnessed, children were frightened and crying over private conditions. Now that the public has seen that, is that not a crisis and what conditions or situations — what metrics would have to be in place for the administration's to call it that?
PSAKI: Well, children presenting at our border who are fleeing violence, who are fleeing persecution, who are fleeing terrible situations is not a crisis. We feel that it is our responsibility to humanely approach this circumstance and make sure they're treated with treated and putting conditions that are safe.
O’DONNELL: The President said he is open to going to the border at some point. Do you have any sense, if during this current situation, he would consider it valuable to go there, see for himself the conditions, talk to people on the ground. Is that something we should expect?
O’DONNELL: He also said one of the changes of take place is allowing a process where those seeking asylum can do it from their home countries. But there are a lot of advocates who say that just extends the period of exposure to poverty, violence, all of those conditions and don't support that. So, how is the President going to deal with that factor and, clearly, the border is not closed, given the flow. So that seems like a message that is not in tune with what people are actually seeing based on are now up to 15 16,000 kids in U.S. custody and so forth.
O’DONNELL: Well, is the President frustrated his message isn't getting through?
PSAKI: I don't think the President sees it that way. The President, the secretary of Homeland Security have all conveyed that there are a number of factors at play here[.]
ROBINSON: On the border, you’ve said a few times today that the majority of migrant families are turned away. DHS said last month that number was 42 percent, that's down significantly from, say, last October, when it was over, 90 percent, so what's your threshold for the majority?
PSAKI: The majority of people, families, everybody who comes to the border of — if you look at those overarching numbers, is turned away. DHS is the right authority for specific numbers and data on all that front, so I’d certainly encourage you to keep talking to them.
ROBINSON: So also you are opening up new facilities. One of the options is being reported over the weekend is spinning $86 million on hold hotel rooms for some migrants and feeding them. How do you square that with the National Guard troops, who were sleeping in parking garages and you know, some of them got sick from having contaminated food. That's a disparity a lot of people are pointing out, that Air National Guard was treated one way and then illegal immigrants are going to be put in hotel rooms?
PSAKI: Well first. Let me say that at the time when we became aware of the conditions, National Guard troops were in — in — in a parking garages, as you noted, the president called the head of the National Guard that day and offered his assistance offered to, uh, play any role that he could play, boosting morale, asking for more aid, making sure they had the right — were treated in the way that they deserved for the incredible role they've played. So I know that was some time ago, but that was the reaction he took at the time.
And, not to be left out, other reporters who pressed Psaki on immigration included (in order): Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove, NPR’s Tamara Keith, the Los Angeles Times’s Chris Megerian, and The Guardian’s David Smith.
With a roster like this of liberal outlets grilling an administration they had a vested interest in supporting (and destroying Donald Trump), the honeymoon has to, at least some extent, be over.