On Wednesday’s episode of The Psaki Show, Fox’s Peter Doocy continued to demand answers on the border crisis by stumping Press Secretary Jen Psaki with questions about how many Haitians have been apprehended at the southern border, why hasn’t the Biden administration addressed the months-long crisis, and whether Biden has ever been to the border in his life.
While NBC’s Peter Alexander grilled Psaki on Biden’s worsening poll numbers and CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy called out Biden’s almost daily refusal to face reporters, CNN analyst and Grio reporter April Ryan took over five minutes to peddle the false claims that Border Patrol officials are purposefully going after Haitians “with the intent to lash” and “hurt” them.
Doocy started by following up on a “very basic, but very important question” from ABC’s Cecilia Vega about whether anyone in the federal government can say how many Haitians “have been sent back and how many have been released.”
Psaki demurred, so Doocy had this hardball: “Is this an issue of not knowing or is this an issue of a lot more people are being released into the U.S. than are being sent out? That is certainly not the issue.”
A perturbed Psaki swatted these away, saying she’s “confident” that the Department of Homeland Security will come through with numbers and that many Haitians weren’t actually being released into the U.S. because of Title 42. After the briefing, Fox’s Bill Melugin reported from the migrant camp and eviscerated that claim in a brutal fact-check.
Doocy pivoted to how the Biden administration had failed to fix the border crisis and even employed some tactics from the Trump administration, but an incredulous Psaki again peddled her lies about the U.S. having a firm grasp on the border based on law and order and public health.
But Doocy’s best moment came at the end of his turn when he simply wanted to know whether Biden has ever been to the border. Needless to say, Psaki didn’t know (click “expand”):
DOOCY: Just one more. Has President Biden ever been to the southern border?
PSAKI: In his life?
PSAKI: I will have to get — look back in my history books and check the times —
DOOCY: We —
PSAKI: — he's been to the Southern border.
DOOCY: — we have been looking all morning and we cannot find any record of him visiting the border as President, Vice President, senator, or even as a concerned citizen. Why would that be?
PSAKI: I can check and see when the last time or when he may have been.
DOOCY: Did — did —
PSAKI: But —
DOOCY: — did —
PSAKI: — tell me more about why you're asking.
DOOCY: Because this is a president who makes the point when there are disasters in this country like a wildfire or a hurricane to go and see for himself firsthand what the needs are of the local communities so that he can have an informed POV to make policy. Why doesn't he do that? Why doesn't he go down at Del Rio, Texas and see what's going on?
PSAKI: Well, first of all, Peter, I think the situation at the border is the result of a broken system, and the President certainly relies on his experience. So, whether it was the work he did to address root causes as Vice President, His efforts when he was in the Senate to support comprehensive immigration reform, steps that at a time or being done and work toward in a bipartisan way, something that certainly we think should be the case today, he uses all of his experiences to inform how he governs, how he approaches challenges, and certainly, he looks, again, at the last four years and the separation of children who were ripped from the arms of their parents as the way he does not want to proceed. So all of his experiences and his time in office, whether Vice President or Senate, inform his approach to issues.
After the AP’s Aamer Madhani and Vega led off with immigration questions (and some France questions from the former and spending negotiations queries via the latter), Ryan jumped in to represent Black organizations and demand their needs be met. Here were Ryan’s questions (click “expand”):
Jen, I — just bear with me because there's a lot of moving cards on this issue. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were here today meeting with the national security team, Cedric Richmond, Susan Rice. Can you give us an update because they were talking about Haiti — immigration issue at the border. Could you give us an update on that and what is expected for tomorrow's meeting with civil rights leaders, be it teleconference or what have you with White House officials?
Can you tell us what happened in the meeting? What was given to them? What did they ask for? Because black leaders are making big asks of this crisis moment.
Okay, what they're asking for asylum process. What does that look like? Reverend Al Sharpton is going to the border tomorrow to see what that looks like, if people are actually being able to get asylum who’s here. Also, you talked about the condemnation of what the patrol agents were doing with the reins or whip whatever with the intent to lash, to hurt people, to keep them away from the border. They want to know is that practice going to be still be in place? Horses and the lashing. Those kind of issues.
No, but bear with me because this is moving pieces, but with the asylum — there are people, advocates — immigrant immigration advocates, especially for that, uh, advocating for the Haitian migrants right now that they're saying that this administration is breaking U.N. policies and its own policies by moving people out before allowing them to ask for asylum. Is that the case?
You have Africans as well. That you said that people from other places, but you have Africans. Cameroonians, Ugandans, and Senegalese who are coming to the border as well. What happens with them as they are looking for asylum? Do you lump them into the same category with Haitians that are at border, be it Del — Del Rio or wherever it be on the border?
Towards the end of the briefing, Ryan’s predecessor at American Urban Radio Networks in Ebony McMorris told Psaki that Haitian advocates have said the treatment of Haitians has been racist and unfair with one possible solution taking away “guns, ammunition, and border patrols.”
Back in reality, Alexander went after Psaki with this scorcher:
[T]he President — he campaigned and, in his first months in office, he campaigned on this message of unity and competence that he could make Washington work, that he would rebuild, revitalize these alliances. Now Americans are seeing headlines about Democrats divided about what they're gonna do on this agenda. France is furious at the U.S. There's frustration among allies about Afghanistan. What should Americans make of that, given what they've seen in recent weeks?
Psaki didn’t exactly take the question head-on as she went against the administration’s tenet of touting global alliances by saying it's doubtful relations with a key ally like France would “be the height of concern for most of the American people.”
Alexander responded with Biden’s approval ratings, citing how they’ve fallen to 43 percent and, a Psaki word salad later, he countered:
[W]hy do you think, in the most recent poll from Gallup, that 43 percent of Americans now approve his handling of the job, which had been well above 50 percent only a matter of weeks ago? What do you think, in the eyes of Americans, has changed that you guys have not done well enough?
And on press access, CBS’s Ed O’Keefe tried to gently move Psaki toward an answer by wanting to do know “what transpired in the Oval Office yesterday.”
Incredibly, Psaki threw Johnson under the bus, saying he “called on individuals from his press corps without alerting us to that intention in advance.”
A few minutes later, Portnoy was still stunned at this excuse and wondered when Biden will “have the opportunity” for reporters “to ask [him] substantive, pointed questions” about the litany of major news stories (click “expand”):
PORTNOY: [C]an shed a little bit more light on — on — on this. Did the President feel he was upstaged by the British prime minister yesterday?
PSAKI: I think the President has not spent a moment worrying about it.
PORTNOY: Can I ask you because there are so many issues that we have —
PORTNOY: — discussed here that are of interest to the public, everything from the collapse of the police reform negotiations on Capitol Hill today to the pivotal period we're in, nine — eight days before the end of the fiscal year and no deal yet to avoid a government shutdown a week from tomorrow.
PORNOY: When can we expect to hear — or when can we expect to have the opportunity to ask the President substantive, pointed questions about these matters in a way that he will elaborate on his views?
PSAKI: Well first, the President knows that he was elected not just to get the pandemic under control and put people back to work, but protect our democracy and stand up for what's right, and be transparent and certainly part of that is engaging with all of you. I would note that he answered questions 135 times leading up to September, three times last week. And he'll keep looking for forums to answer questions from all of you, something that he sees is vitally important to our democracy.
PORTNOY: But in this month of September, most of the occasions we've had have been fleeting. In fact, there are some occasions where he's only taken one question and walked away and most of those occasions referred outside of this building. So when can we expect to have an opportunity to actually ask the President questions in a formal setting?
PSAKI: Again, Steve, I'm not trying to diminish or ask for a formal press conference, which certainly I'm sure we will have another one. But I will convey to you that as it relates to providing information to the public, elevating the importance of the freedom of press to our democracy, that I don't know that the — the format whether it is multiple, shorter Q and A's or a formal press conference is at the top of the list of the American public's concern.
PORTNOY: We — we intend to raise the matters of concern to the public at those press conferences.
PSAKI: As — as you have during 140 times, you've asked the President questions.
To see the relevant transcript from the September 22 briefing, click here.