Hours before the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial, White House reporters stepped up Tuesday afternoon and did their due diligence in a briefing filled with harsh questioning. At least six reporters went toe-to-toe in slamming Press Secretary Jen Psaki over President Biden’s earlier comments demanding a guilty verdict and the White House’s refusal to call out Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) for comments threatening the jury.
However, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor was still a holdout in defending Waters. After a serious questions seeking clarification on Biden’s comments, she asked if she “could speak to Americans who feel on edge” and “anxious,” but “especially African Americans who have seen so many verdicts, so many trials happen.”
Alcindor’s subsequent question was the epitome of liberal partisanship and why PBS shouldn’t be able to engage in partisan activity using our tax dollars as she went to bat for Waters against “an onslaught of attacks” from Republicans:
And Speaker Nancy Pelosi came the defense of Representative Waters. Representative Waters, as you said, clarified — she said my actual words don't matter, I wonder why the White House isn't also coming to the defense of Representative waters given the fact that she's now facing an onslaught of attacks, especially by — I would say Republicans. I wonder why the White House is saying we — we back what she said about being confrontational. She was obviously not threatening violence. There are civil rights leaders that are saying that’s what confront — that’s what civil rights is, to be confrontational, to be active.
While one other reporter gave Psaki a softball about what Biden sees as “his role or responsibility as President during these deliberations and then perhaps as the verdict comes down,” six other reporters weren’t looking to be Biden and Waters apologists.
A day after Psaki took another shot at her credibility, the Fox News Channel’s Kristin Fisher brought up Waters after NBC’s Kristen Welker didn’t have any of luck, citing House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s belief that she was, in Fisher’s description, “inciting violence and then you had the judge yesterday calling her words ‘abhorrent’ and saying that she was being ‘disrespectful of the rule of law.’”
She then asked: “I just want to be very clear here. Does the White House condone the congresswoman's action?”
Psaki replied by defending Waters since she “clarified her own comments” and stating that the President believes “that it's important to provide space and an opportunity for peaceful protest but protesting should be peaceful.”
Fisher tried again, but Psaki gaslit viewers by suggesting that Waters’s clarification was sufficient and that the controversy should be put to rest and saying otherwise would be dishonest (click “expand”):
FISHER: But she was calling on the protesters to get into more conversational.
PSAKI: And she’s had additional comments since then, right?
PSAKI: Okay, which provide additional clarification.
FISHER: But I guess my question is does the White House believe that those kinds of comments are helpful in the middle of this trial that everybody knows could lead to more violence and unrest?
PSAKI: Well, I can what the President's point of view is, which is that it’s important to provide an opportunity for peaceful protest. That's what he has continued advocated for — what he has consistently advocated for. But I would also say that, when somebody provides a clarification for their comments, that's a important context to include in anybody's reporting.
Rewinding to earlier in the briefing, Welker masterfully pointed to Team Biden’s insistence that the judiciary and law enforcement matters should be independent and wanted to know how that squared with what Biden did on Tuesday morning.
Psaki said that she didn’t “think he would see it as weighing in on the verdict,” so Welker came back with a more direct question: “He did call for the ‘right verdict,’ though. How is it ever appropriate at any kind of characterization before the jury has a say, especially for the President of the United States?”
Before a question about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, Welker said Biden and his team have been “clear in condemning rhetoric that he did see as adding to a climate of discord,” so she wanted to know how they couldn’t see how they’ve been engaging in “a double standard to not condemn or speak out against the comments by Maxine Waters, even if she didn't mean to imply violence.”
A few minutes later, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins miraculously had another day of excellent questions using Psaki’s own words against her (click “expand”):
COLLINS: Yesterday you said the White House did not want to get ahead of the jury deliberations but, of course, the jury is still deliberating, so what changed?
PSAKI: Well, the jury is now sequestered which is a significant change and certainly we want to allow them space and time to consider and make a decision about what they believe the verdict should be.
COLLINS: Does the President feel he can come out after the verdict and regardless of what it is, tell people to accept it given he's weighed in on what he thinks the verdict should be?
COLLINS: And so, what made him want to wait in today on this before the verdict has come down?
PSAKI: I think he was asked a question if I — if I — if I followed it closely.
COLLINS: Well, it was my question, but I asked him what his message was for the Floyd family, not what he felt the verdict should be.
COLLINS: And who is he consulting with about what his response should be after the verdict comes down? I know we talked about speaking with state officials and local authorities but who is — who are his advisers that he’s speaking with about the right way to respond to the verdict, regardless of what it is.
PSAKI: You know, I think that's something that will come from the Presidents heart and he will be prepared to speak to it in some form or another. I don't want to get ahead of what that format will look like when we know what the verdict looks like.
To see the transcript of the Floyd questions (including from those not covered here, such as those from the AP’s Jonathan Lemire and McClatchy’s Francesca Chambers), click here.