A day after not one reporter called on during Wednesday’s White House press briefing brought up newly-released e-mails from Dr. Tony Fauci, three reporters stepped up on Thursday’s episode to ask Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the damning e-mails from the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and, on a related note, investigating the origins of the virus in Wuhan.
In fact, a review of the briefing transcript showed three reporters combined to ask only 11 questions on either subject out of 96 total questions from the briefing (which worked out to only about 11.4 percent).
Fox News’s Jacqui Heinrich broke the ice as the fifth reporter called on. After a series of infrastructure questions, she made the pivot and invoked the e-mail between Fauci and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins that dismissed an April 2020 report from Special Report anchor Bret Baier about the virus escaping from a lab as a “conspiracy” theory.
Asked if that’s still “the position of the administration and their health experts that this was not engineered,” Psaki brushed Heinrich aside, saying she’s “spoken to this pretty extensively” and while she’ll let Fauci “speak for himself...he's been an undeniable asset in our country's pandemic response.”
Psaki dismissed the notion of going through what Fauci knew in the early days, calling it “obviously not that advantageous for me to relitigate the substance of e-mails from 17 months ago” when the focus should be on the intelligence community’s ongoing review.
Making her debut on the Psaki Show, Heinrich followed up by citing a lengthy Vanity Fair piece on the pandemic (click “expand”):
HEINRICH: Can you speak it all to the Vanity Fair report about this State Department fact sheet that came out five days before inauguration, you know —
PSAKI: Five days before this President's inauguration?
HEINRICH: — correct. Do — do you know if there was any crossover of that, how that was seen by this administration, the conclusions that they were trying to put out in the final days of the Trump administration?
PSAKI: I think I'm just going to focus on our — our own internal review that's going to use every resource in the federal government, whether that is our health experts, our medical experts, our national security team to see what more we can unearth about the origins, which certainly we all want to get to the bottom of.
It took over 15 minutes for another reporter to again bring up Fauci’s e-mails, his inconsistencies, and his defense of China in numerous recent interviews.
As he’s done since the start of the administration (and even during the prior one), Real Clear Politics’ Philip Wegmann asked a question that the administration official (in this case, Psaki) didn’t want to hear.
Despite noting Psaki doesn’t “want to really relitigate what happened when Biden wasn’t in office and when those emails were sent,” Wegmann asked anyway if President Biden has been “briefed...on what was in those FOIA-ed Fauci e-mails.”
Psaki said she wasn’t aware, but Wegmann press on by citing Fauci’s contradictory views on things like masks and post-infection immunity as a way of wondering whether the administration still has confidence in Fauci and Collins.
The White House flack denied any changes, hailing Fauci as having “played an incredible role in getting the pandemic under control, being a — a voice to the public throughout the course of this pandemic” and that those e-mails were from such a long time ago that it’s worth looking forward.
Wegmann’s final question was particularly biting as he asked whether the White House agreed with comments Fauci made hours earlier on Morning Joe in which he defended China by urging those questioning the virus’s origins to not be so “accusatory” or the Chinese won’t want to cooperate.
Psaki ducked the question by trying to have her cake and eat it too, insisting the White House “has been working with the international community, rejoining the WHO, working with the international community to unite in pressing the Chinese” as well as conduct an intelligence assessment of its own.
Right after Wegmann, another reporter gave it a try. Here were her questions and, like the ones prior, Psaki was not amused (click “expand”)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Yes, just about the 90-day review. One thing that's not clear is how is it that the U.S. intelligence officials knew about the workers in Wuhan that they knew about was getting sick back in 2019? And then in February, the intelligence officials were saying that they still haven't ruled out the possibility that it — that the virus came from the lab. But the inquiry didn't happen until late May and this month, and I'm wondering what took us so long before it launched this —
PSAKI: That’s not actually an accurate depiction of the timeline.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: But is —
PSAKI: The President actually asked his intelligence community to do an internal assessment, which then was presented to him, an internal meeting, back in March.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Yes, but the official, the 90-day inquiry, the one that you’re describing, like, the full look at this hypothesis, that was not announced publicly and we were not aware of it until May 26th
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: [T]he question — bigger question is what took the U.S. so long to take it seriously when there were reports about the possibility of this virus coming from there — you know, way, way —
PSAKI: We completely refute that argument or notion. Obviously, the President asked his intelligence team to do an internal assessment[.]
To see the relevant briefing transcript from June 3, click here.