The Psaki Show returned Monday following the Thanksgiving holiday with a packed show on the heels of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and a host of new travel restrictions. So, it fell to Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy to question Press Secretary Jen Psaki on, among other issues, President Biden’s hypocrisy on Covid travel bans and his latest mask faux pas.
Doocy cut right to the chase with a question no one had asked Biden following his Covid remarks or Psaki prior to his turn: “Before Joe Biden was President, he said that Covid travel restrictions on foreign countries were ‘hysterical,’ ‘xenophobia,’ and ‘fearmongering.’ So, what changed?”
Possessing zero shame, Psaki insisted he “put it in full context,” which was supposedly about Biden being “critical of was the way that the former President put out, I believe, a xenophobic tweet, in how he called — what he called the coronavirus, and — and who he directed it at.”
Psaki added that Biden “has not been critical of travel restrictions” since “we have put those in place ourselves” to “follow the advice of health and medical experts.”
As our friend Matt Whitlock pointed out, Psaki’s response should be torn to pieces by the so-called fact-checkers in the establishment press as Biden did indeed denounce the China ban.
Worse yet for Psaki, Biden also spoke out when Trump put in place travel bans to Africa, saying such a move “further diminished the U.S. in the eyes of the world.”
Moving along, Doocy shifted to Biden going unmasked while shopping in Nantucket, Massachusetts over he weekend. Initially, Psaki played dumb, but then offered a more formal set of responses, including the claim that it’s imperative for even the vaccinated to mask up because it “save[s]...the lives of” one’s “friends and neighbors” (click “expand”):
DOOCY: We saw the President shopping indoors on Saturday behind glass that says face covering required, but his face was uncovered. Why?
PSAKI: The President is somebody who follows the recommendations and the advice of the CDC. I don't know what the circumstances were of that particular moment.
DOOCY: He was shopping in a store and on the glass outside, it said “face covering required,” and we could see him inside and his face was uncovered.
PSAKI: Well, again, Peter, our recommendation and advice continues to be for people to wear masks when they are required in establishments. I don't know what this establishment was. The President obviously follows the health — the advice of his health and medical team.
DOOCY: Is — is there concern that when the President says today, “please wear your mask indoors in public settings around other people,” and he doesn't do that, that it’s going to make it harder to get people to follow him?
PSAKI: I think you see the American people and all of you see the President wearing an mask every time he comes out to an event, when he’s sitting in meetings, and certainly he will continue to model behavior he hopes the American people will follow. Not for his benefit, but to save their own lives and the lives of their friends and neighbors.
Touching on two other topics before wrapping, Doocy applied the same pressure he did on travel bans with one about the Remain in Mexico policy: “Joe Biden once described the Remain in Mexico policy as ‘dangerous,’‘ inhumane,’ ‘goes against everything we stand for as a nation of immigrants.’ So, why is he keeping it?”
Psaki affirmed Biden “continues to stand behind exactly those comments and statements,” but the administration has had to reimplement it due to a court order, which Doocy took as time to move to the last question.
Pointing out that Biden said last week his “administration is monitoring the situation in Waukesha closely” and how it’s since “revealed by prosecutors that the assailant — the assailant swerved his truck side-to-side as part of an intentional act to run over as many people as possible,” Doocy wondered why Biden hasn’t gone to visit the victims.
Using a line that would have been ridiculed if uttered by a Trump official, Psaki emphasized that “our hearts go out to this community” and they were “in touch...with officials,” but there’s no trip to announce because “any president going to visit a community requires a lot of assets” and “requires taking their resources.”
Later on, reporters such as NPR’s Franco Ordoñez and The Wall Street Journal’s Sabrina Siddiqui pushed the White House from the left to implement measures such as new mask mandates and vaccine requirements for domestic flights.
And, of course, PBS’s Yamiche Alcindor seemed to suggest race was involved in banning travel from southern Africa (even though it’s the origin of this new Covid strain) (click “expand”):
SIDDIQUI: So, the President said earlier today that there haven't been any recommendations to put in place domestic travel requirements, but what we saw with the Delta variant is that once it was already here, it spread rapidly across the country, so why not have any testing or vaccination requirements whatsoever for domestic air travel, since people are — you know, flowing fairly openly across country.
TYLER PAGER [The Washington Post]: Does the White House have any plans — I know you said that Biden himself — his travel will not be restricted, but in terms of events, the White House is hosting this holiday season Christmas Party, Hanukkah party. Are there any plans to restrict size or gathering? Um, capacity issues with the — this spread of the new variant.
ORDOÑEZ: I wanted — the President was seeming pretty clear that — not interested in any type of lockdowns, but is the White House or is the administration encouraging some of these cities, including Washington, D.C., to rethink decisions to lift the mask mandates that they have?
BRIAN LOWRY [McClatchy]: Today a federal court issued an injunction pausing the enforcement of the vaccine requirement for healthcare workers in 10 states. What's the reaction to that ruling? And how does a ruling like this affect the country's ability to prepare for the new variant?
ALCINDOR: And you said — you said just a few moments ago there are hundreds of cases in Africa and — and only a few or as many — not as many in Europe. Could you talk about the science behind that? Is about the president's scientists are telling him that because there are hundreds —
ALCINDOR: — thousands of cases — I was just reading what you said. But yes, thousands of cases in Africa and not as many in Europe. That's the science behind why a travel ban needs to be in place because — I guess I’m just trying to understand why, if one person, let's say, in Germany or somewhere else gets on a plane and comes to the United States. Isn't that percentage just as likely to have the variant end up in the United States? Could you just talk a little bit more about the science behind the reasoning there?
To see the relevant transcript from November 29's briefing (including additional questions of note), click here.