NY Post’s Nelson Draws Out Angry KJP Over Report of WH Sexual Harassment

April 4th, 2024 7:12 PM

Near the end of a tense White House press briefing Thursday dominated by questions about Israel, the New York Post’s Steven Nelson drew terse replies from Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre over his recent reporting on powerful White House aide Anthony Bernal being accused of “bull[ying] and verbally sexually harass[ing] colleagues over more than a decade.”

Not only has Bernal has vehemently denied the allegations in Nelson’s heavily-sourced story, but Chief of Staff Jeff Zients went on the record to defend him and Bernal could be viewed as unfirable given he’s so close to First Lady Jill Biden she’s reportedly called him her work spouse.

Nelson began with that description of Bernal, adding “[t]hree former colleagues have made allegations of sexual harassment against him, building on prior reports of bullying” and not only have “[s]ome of these sources have worked with you,” but “you’d find them credible.”

Given that, Zients’s statement and his “sources” being “alarmed...it could chill sexual harassment and bullying reports”, he wondered “[h]ow can the White House...possibly justify not...investiga[ing] these allegations.”

Jean-Pierre stepped in before he could finish with the well-known declaration from Biden in 2021 that he’d fire on the spot anyone who mistreats a colleague, scoffing that she doesn’t “know who your sources are, so....I can’t speak to that” since “they’re blind sources.”



Adding she won’t ever speak about “personnel investigations”, she sang Bernal’s praises as someone she’s “known...for more than a decade” and counts him as both “a friend” and “a colleague” she’s “worked closely with”.

To Nelson’s credit, he eventually stepped in despite Jean-Pierre’s continued filibustering: “I just gotta press you on this because the President said he would fire people for disrespecting colleagues and there’s no investigation.”

Jean-Pierre continued to screech and make Nelson’s point, insisting this is all “unfounded” claims.

Nelson tried a third time by noting there certainly seems to be “special status” granted to Bernal given what seems to be “the First Lady shielding him as some sources believe.”

Jean-Pierre again rallied around Bernal one last time (click “expand”):

JEAN-PIERRE: Steven, I’ve answered the question. I’ve answered the question. Bernard [sic] — Anthony Bernal spoke for himself. You heard from our chief of staff — our chief of staff — and gave your publication a statement, obviously. And you’ve heard from me. I — I’m — I don’t have it.

NELSON: Is that going to have a chilling —

JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t —

NELSON: — effect, though, on people who suffer —

JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t have anything else —

NELSON: — sexual harassments or bullying.

JEAN-PIERRE:— to share. I don’t have anything else to share on that.

Before asking about Bernal, he brought up both the ongoing legal odyssey of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the bipartisan push to make the PRESS Act law. Not surprisingly, Jean-Pierre all but ignored the former to only talk about the latter (click “expand”): 

NELSON: [O]ur government appears to be closer to potentially extraditing Julian Assange. Press freedom groups say this case threatens to criminalize or professional, so I’m wondering what the White House is thinking is regarding that matter and potential threat to press freedom. Does the White House have a stance on the depending federal press shield legislation that passed the House and that Senator Schumer told me he hopes reaches President Biden’s desk here?

JEAN-PIERRE: You’re talking about the press acts —


JEAN-PIERRE: — more specifically? Look, and I said this — I said this many times — I said this last week where journalism is not a crime. We’ve been very clear about that. Uh, and as it relates to this particular legislation, I haven’t reviewed. It would have to talk to our Office of Leg Affairs on that particular legislation. But I do want to say, back in October of 2022, the Justice Department codified a policy to ban subpoenas of journalist records. The President strongly supports the right of free and independent press. That is something that the President talked about when he was at the Gridiron. The president talked about this at the last White House Correspondents Dinner. He has been very consistent about this, and I’ll just quote him for a second: “A free press is a pillar of any free society and while we may not always agree with certain coverage or admire it, we do admire the courage of the free press.” Journalism, again, is not a crime.

NELSON:  Before moving on, just to confirm, no stance yet on the Press Act that you’re aware of? And the Assange matter, is there concerned about that?

JEAN-PIERRE: Ah. You know, I don’t have much more to share besides what I just laid out here, so I would just leave it as what I just stated to you.

A few minutes before Nelson, the Fox Business Network’s Grady Trimble called out the Biden administration’s failed attempts to make fetch happen and force Americans to buy electric vehicles (EVs). Jean-Pierre, appearing prepared for the question threw out a littany of numbers in attempt to make it seem like EVs are both afforable and exploding in popularity:

Thankfully, Trimble followed up on this gobbledygook: “So, is it realistic to go from about seven or eight percent of sales to 50 percent of sales in eight years if the automakers themselves are cutting back pro — on production?”

It was here the Jean-Pierre we’ve come to know emerged as she fumbled through with claims “that— that U.S. manu — U.S. manufacturing jobs have increased” and “[j]obs have indeed increase [sic] and when you see a boom like this, that means you need auto workers, right? It can’t happen on its own...and we want to see a manufacturing industry that’s for the future of this — of this country”.

Trimble’s other subject concerned President Biden’s hypocrisy on Chinese-owned TikTok: “If President Biden is concerned enough about TikTok to bring it up on a call with the president of China, why is he and why is the Vice President — why are they still making videos for TikTok?”

Though Jean-Pierre isn’t adept at many things, one thing she does know what to do is what she did here: punt to the reelection campaign.

To see the relevant transcript from the April 4 briefing (including questions about Israel), click here.