Making her first White House Briefing Room appearance since her March 17 throwdown with Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Fox News’s Kristin Fisher questioned Psaki on a FoxNews.com exclusive revealing that illegal immigrant children housed at the San Diego Convention Center are being given in-person schooling while actual San Diegans continue to languish in virtual learning.
Fisher also used her time to elicit answers on what Vice President Harris was doing about the border crisis and how a continuation Trump administration’s space policies has shown that the Biden team agreed with Trump on the country’s future in space.
It was Fisher’s second line of questioning that touched on the FoxNews.com story from Jordan Early and our friend Peter Hasson:
I’d like to find out what the White House thinks about what is happening in San Diego where public school teachers are providing in-person instruction at the San Diego Convention Center to migrant children before their own public school students and these kids, of course — about 130,000 of them — have been at home, doing online learning for about a year now. So, what does the White House think about that?
Psaki took a small jab at Fox, acknowledging “you guys have done a fair amount of reporting on this, so maybe you’ll have more details,” and then sought to excuse this prioritization of migrant children over the young Americans (and from other countries) that make up the San Diego Unified School District population by noting that they’ll be returning to school later in April.
When Fisher said it would be April 12 and only for “hybrid learning,” Psaki added that the instruction at the convention center was “part-time” and students were currently “on spring break.”
Fisher followed up by quoting dismay from a San Diego County supervisor before asking: “[T]he question is, you know, does the White House think this sends the right message to these 130,000 kids in San Diego and their parents who have been stuck in the classroom?”
Seemingly perturbed, Psaki twice told Fisher that “context is important” and reiterated that students were “on spring break right now, so these teachers would be — I am not sure if it is volunteer or paid, you’d have to ask the local school district while the kids are on spring break.”
Before this, Fisher requested “more insight into why the White House has felt the need over the last few days to really clarify the Vice President's role at the border,” which led Psaki to explain that she’s primarily working to deal with the Northern Triangle countries and work with their leaders to disincentivize people to flee their home countries.
Since it was a few months after Psaki had to backtrack for mocking the Space Force, Fisher wanted to know whether the Biden administration has come to realize that President Trump’s space policies should be continued (click “expand”):
FISHER: One more question about states. The Biden administration just announced its intention to retain the national Space council and this is on top of the white house voicing its support for the Space Force and for the Artemis program. I mean, these are three programs or policies that President Trump and the Trump administration put in place. So, would it be fair to say that space is the one — and space policy is one of the few areas where President Biden actually agrees with his predecessor?
PSAKI: I — I think — that — that sounds accurate to me. Look, I think the President believes the National Space Council, as — as you — as you just conveyed or asked about, provides an opportunity to generate national space policy strategies, synchronize on America's space activities at a time of unprecedented activity. It’s also an opportunity to generate by America's own activities in space. So, it certainly is a program or council, I should say, he’s excited to keep in place and one I think he fares to say he agrees with the past administration's maintaining the program.
Elsewhere in the briefing, Bloomberg’s Mario Parker, CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, and the New York Post’s Steven Nelson inquired about the China-friendly World Health Organization (WHO) report on the origins of the coronavirus. Here were their questions (and select Psaki answers) (click “expand”):
ZELENY: Does President Biden believe that the millions of Americans who lost loved ones to COVID-19 deserve a better response than one that they’ve gotten from the WHO?
PSAKI: In terms of looking into —
ZELENY: Into the origins for COVID-19.
PSAKI: — well, I think he believes that the American people, the global community, the medical experts, the doctors, all of the people who’ve been working to save lives, the families who have lost loved ones, all deserve greater transparency. They deserve better information. They deserve steps that are taken by the global community to provide that, so there was an extensive statement put out by a number of countries, including the U.S. but let me highlight — and we’re still reviewing the report, but let me highlight some of the concerns that have come up to date. The report lacks crucial data, information, and access. It represents a partial and incomplete picture. There was a joint statement, as I noted that was put out. We also welcome a similar statement from the EU, and EU members sending a clear message that the global community shares these concerns. There are steps from here that we believe should be taken. There’s a second stage in this process that we believe should be led by international and independent experts. They should have unfettered access to data. They should be able to ask questions of people who are on the ground at this point in time And that’s a step that WHO could take.
ZELENY: And that statement says that the U.S. joins these countries in expressing shared concerns. But the statement quite frankly is pretty bureaucratic and perhaps does not meet the moment of the seriousness of the crisis here in this country in terms of the death toll. So what is the White House’s actual reaction to this report from the WHO? Was it simply inadequate?
ZELENY: When will the president speak on this?
PARKER: World Health Organization Director General Tedros, one of his primary concerns was that the report may have glossed over, if you will, the possibility that the — that the virus escape from a lab. Is that a central concern of the White House as well? And then, when you talk about cooperation, has — has China not cooperated enough in the White House’s opinion?
PARKER: And so, that centers on the — the hypothesis that would involve the lab?
NELSON: And regarding the WHO, former President Trump accused the WHO being “a puppet of China.” Does this report confirm that claim?
And in one other key moment, one reporter twice sought White House comment on the Washington D.C. killing of Uber Eats driver Mohammad Anwar in the context of attacks on Asian-American and Pacific Islanders.
Unsurprisingly, Psaki would only say that the White House was “engaged in a broad swath of leaders from the AAPI community, from across the country” and there wasn’t any “additional guidance being put out” from local law enforcement to protect the staff at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.