Following a day off due to President Biden’s CNN town hall in Ohio, Thursday’s White House press briefing gave us another welcome surprise as Press Secretary Jen Psaki found herself under the gun from not just Fox’s Peter Doocy, but a variety of reporters on issues such as Covid cases inside the administration, Critical Race Theory, Hunter Biden’s artwork, and masking.
Just as her colleague Weijia Jiang called out Hunter’s sketchy arrangement on July 9, CBS chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes hammered home the fact that he’s “going to be able to meet with prospective buyers at two art shows where his paintings are going to be on display” and thus asked Psaki if that would go against “the goal of keeping him in the dark about the buyers...to prevent even the appearance of undue influence.”
Psaki gaslit viewers and reporters by insisting that, at the art event, Hunter wouldn’t be talking about...art. And yes, she actually said this. As always, feel free to read the relevant transcript linked at the bottom.
Shifting to the selling of the art, Cordes noted that keeping the buyers secret wouldn’t actually be more transparent because, if they’re instead released, the public would know who bought which work and for how much.
Once Psaki maintained that “we won’t know who the buyers are,” Cordes stated the obvious: “Couldn’t they just announce on social media that they bought a painting?”
Of course, Psaki demurred, saying the “system...has appropriate safeguards” that allows Hunter Biden to have a professional life.
Doocy came next and things didn’t get any easier for Psaki. First, he wanted to know whether the Education Department will ensure that a pro-critical race theory group isn’t included in school curriculums seeing as how they had claimed its inclusion in new guidance was a mistake.
Psaki tried to minimize it, saying it was one small footnote and insinuated Doocy was lacking the full context.
On masking, Doocy, pointed out what would be an onslaught of blowback if the administration resurrected calls for Americans to mask up, regardless of vaccination status (click “expand”):
DOOCY: And then on masks, a few weeks ago, the President said we were closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus. Is that still the case if you guys are now reportedly considering asking vaccinated people to wear masks again?
PSAKI: Well, first of all, the CDC director, who oversees decisions along those lines and all of our public health decisions, made clear that that was not a decision that had been made just a few hours ago. So I — I point out that first. Second, I would say what the President was referring to and continues to talk about as he did last night at a town hall, is that we’re quite proud of the progress that’s been made. People over 65, more than 80 percent are vaccinated. Almost 70 percent of adults are vaccinated. 162 million Americans are vaccinated. That is certainly progress. But we are still at war with the virus. We’ve never said that would be over. We’ve always said that we’d be continuing to focus on ensuring we’re meeting people where they are and getting them vaccinated, keeping them safe.
DOOCY: The President said in May, vaxxed or masked, is — I — I think a lot of people got the vaccine because they were hearing him say, if you get the vaccine, you don’t have to wear masks anymore. So —
PSAKI: And that continues to be CDC guidance.
DOOCY: — and you can say that that’s going to be the guidance forever?
PSAKI: I am not the CDC director.
DOOCY: I understand but people don’t care who tells me to wear a mask.
PSAKI: They should care.
DOOCY: If it’s the White House — if it’s the White House —
PSAKI: Shouldn’t they care —
DOOCY: — or the CDC. What difference does it make.
PSAKI: — if it’s a doctor, a medical expert or a spokesperson? I think most Americans actually do care.
DOOCY: It’s the government.
NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell continue to press as not only did she call out President Biden for his false claim from the CNN town hall that being vaccinated means you can’t get Covid, but she brought up the breakthrough cases at the White House.
By simply asking for a total number, Psaki admitted that the public doesn’t deserve to have “numbers of breakthrough cases” because we’re not in the initial throes of the pandemic.
Though it was to no avail, O’Donnell hit back: “Really? That’s not transparency to give us a number — not the names — but a number of these cases. You must have that information.”
CBS News Radio correspondent and White House Correspondents Association head Steven Portnoy kept the pressure up, bringing up Hunter Biden’s artwork and President Biden’s condescending answer to a restauranteur at the town hall (click “expand”):
PORTNOY: Jen, last night at the CNN town hall, the President was asked by a restaurateur about the worker shortage that the commerce secretary just called acute. She described it as a skills gap, but the restaurateur said that he had right now job openings he can’t fill. And he asked the President if there’s anything that his administration can do to help him and his business. The President seemed to struggle with an answer. Is there anything that his administration can do to help that restaurateur or people who are similarly situated with this acute worker shortage?
PSAKI: Well, first I would — I would say that we have already implemented and the money has out the door — it continues to go out the door for our restaurant re-stabilization program. Something that was a part of the American Rescue Plan and helped many, many hundreds of restaurants across the country stay open, reopen. And that was assistance that came from the American Rescue Plan that the President signed into law. I think what the President was noting is that, at this point in time, it’s also a workers’ market. And, in some places, it may be that you have to pay more wages in order to attract workers. We don’t have all the details, of course, about his individual circumstance, but we implemented a major program that helped restaurants stay open, something we strongly supported. We advocated for as a part of the package.
PORTNOY: If I can ask a follow-up to the question about the President’s son and the art gallery events —
PORTNOY: — you said that Hunter Biden is not going to discuss anything related to the sale of his art. Is that a promise that has been made in writing? And if so, is that an agreement that could be made available to the public?
PSAKI: I’m making that clear to all of you now that that is an agreement that has been made as a part of this — as a part of these events.
PORTNOY: Is it in writing?
PSAKI: I can check and see if there’s more detail.
PSAKI: But I think it’s pretty clear what the agreement is. So I’m not sure it’s more complicated than that, but I will see if there’s more to provide.
Fast-forward a few minutes and ABC News Radio’s Karen Travers and she did her part to illustrate the rent-free space that Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) occupies in the minds of the liberal media.
Travers quoted DeSantis’s promise that school mask mandates wouldn’t be implemented in the Sunshine State, so she used that to ask Psaki whether he’s “putting kids in Florida at risk” of contracting the coronavirus (or worse).
Psaki agreed, saying it’d “be greatly concerning to me” if she lived there and claiming “my kids are quite adjusted to” constant mask-wearing along with “many kids.”
And finally, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins picked up on the line of questioning from....Peter Doocy?
Yes, Collins inquired about the reality that the Biden White House would have a “messaging” problem if they urge all Americans to mask up because “not having to wear a mask is often a perk of being vaccinated that the White House and other top health officials have touted.”
Predictably, Psaki deflected and argued that no official change has been made yet from the CDC.
To see the relevant transcript from July 22's briefing, click here.