Monday’s White House press briefing picked up on many of Friday’s themes, including the Biden administration’s lies about Georgia’s voter law and their pressuring of MLB to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta. Fox News’s Peter Doocy repeatedly hammered Press Secretary Jen Psaki with questions about Georgia, Biden’s falsehoods, and The Masters plus the separate issue of illegal immigration.
And speaking of disinformation, Bloomberg’s Jordan Fabian collaborated with Psaki to peddle as fact the disastrous and erroneous 60 Minutes report about Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) having colluded with Publix to distribute coronavirus vaccines.
First, on Fabian, he told Psaki if the White House would punish Florida in light of “a report over the weekend that Governor DeSantis in Florida had been dealing with some sort of improper dealings with the supermarket chain Publix as far as distributing the vaccine.”
Psaki refused to pushback and instead not only said they were concerned, but suggested DeSantis was steering vaccines away from African-Americans as “17 percent of Florida’s population is African-American, but less than seven percent of vaccinations have gone to African-Americans.”
She then called on Doocy, who return to an earlier Fabian question that Biden never pressured MLB and after she doubled down on that spin, he brought up the negative economic impact of Cobb County losing the game and also this week’s golf major in Augusta (click “expand”):
DOOCY: I know that you made a point that he did not dictate the league, move the All-Star Game out of Georgia, but he likes to say the words of a President matter. He said he would strongly support if players and the league wanted to do that and they did it. So, do you — does he think that the PGA should move The Masters tournament that begins this week out of Georgia?
PSAKI: I’m not here to call for anyone on behalf of the President or the Vice President or anyone to take steps in reaction to the law in Georgia. The President was asked a direct question and the context of the question was also around the league meeting to discuss this exact issue and he answered the question.
DOOCY: So, then should we believe that if PGA Tour players who are arriving in Augusta this week or today to register for the tournament, if they got together and decided to, or talked about not participating, that is something he would strongly support or is there a difference between the —
PSAKI: I’m sure you will ask me that question or him this question, but our focus is on doing what we can to advocate for making voter — voting easier and more accessible around the country. That’s where our efforts are going to be from the White House.
DOOCY: Before the President said that he would strongly support moving the All-Star Game out of Georgia, did he consider the economic impact? Because the Cobb County Tourism CEO’s saying they’re going to lose $100 million dollars in lost business activity, 8,000 hotel rooms. Did he think about that before he said he would strongly support the move?
PSAKI: Again, he was doing an interview. He was given the context, as I just read out to you in full detail of how the question was asked. He answered the question.
To wrap up round one, Doocy cited the flood of illegal immigrants as something the U.S. has struggled to continue and how failing to apprehend some border crossings allow the drug trade to proliferate. In both cases, Psaki refused to offer anything new as she said most adults continue to be turned away and halting the spread of drugs would be part of “diplomatic conversations.”
In round two, Doocy led off with the latest moving of the goal posts by teachers unions, citing demands in Los Angeles for free childcare for teachers. Of course, Psaki said it’s a state matter and didn’t comment.
It was here that Doocy brought the receipts and cited The Washington Post fact-check of Biden’s lies about voting hours in the Peach State to ask whether Biden will “change the way that he talks about” it.
Psaki shameless refused to acknowledge this coordinated disinformation campaign and doubled down on the insistence that the law suppresses the vote (whereas states like Delaware, New Jersey, and New York have far-more restrictive measures) (click “expand”):
DOOCY: And then just one more quick one on Georgia to put a bow on it. Is the President going to change the way that he talks about the new Georgia voting law? Because in that interview that you’ve referenced, he said, “the law would end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off,” and he said it would end voting hours early so working people can’t have their vote after their shift is over. But The Washington Post gave that claim four Pinocchios because that part of the law gives counties the option to extend voting hours and so I’m just curious if the President is going to change the way that he’s talking.
PSAKI: Well, fundamentally, the President doesn’t believe it should be made harder to vote. He believes it should be easier and this bill makes it harder to request and return an absentee ballot. It collapses the length of George’s runoff election, making it harder for large jurisdictions to offer early voting. It imposes rigid new restrictions on local official’s ability to set polling hours to suit the needs of voters in their county. Those are all pieces of the bill. So his view is that we need to it easier and not harder to vote, and that will continue to be what he advocates for.
DOOCY: But the thing he said has been determined by election law experts to be not true. So I’m just curious if he’s going to stop saying that.
PSAKI: Well, again, I think the fact checkers will also tell you that this bill does not make it easier for people across the state of Georgia to vote, and that’s where he has concerns.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins stepped in a few moments later to follow-up: “The President does acknowledge that the new law doesn’t change election day voting hours, right?”
Psaki refused to admit that Biden had been wrong, falsely claiming it “doesn’t expand...early voting” and that “there are a lot of components of the legislation he is concerned about and that’s what he was expressing.”
Collins tried again, but Psaki cowardly ended the briefing so she could bring in the White House Easter bunny and say that reporters should be receiving a commemorative Easter egg to share with their families.
To see the transcript of other notable exchanges on Georgia and immigration from the AP’s Alexandra Jaffe, Fabian, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, and The Post’s Anne Gearan, click “expand.”
White House Press Briefing
April 5, 2021
1:42 p.m. Eastern
ALEXANDRA JAFFE: Then on immigration. We released a poll earlier today that suggests that 25 percent of Americans — only 25 percent approve of the way that the President is handling the situation at the border with respect to unaccompanied minors. So, does this poll suggest that the President needs to reevaluate his approach to that issue?
JEN PSAKI: Well, if I read the poll correctly, it also had 59 percent of Americans believing that unaccompanied children should be treated safely and be protected in that way, and 65 percent supported the reunification of families. There’s no question this is a difficult challenge. And the President believes he was elected to address hard problems. And his focus right now is on expediting processing at the border, opening up additional facilities, addressing the root causes and restarting programs to incentivize kids from applying from within their countries, So that’s his focus right now.
JAFFE: Is the issue just a messaging issue then? I mean, how do you explain the fact that Americans are not in favor of what the President is doing at the border?
PSAKI: I’m not sure that’s an accurate depiction of the poll. Given that there was about one third of the people who replied didn’t have an opinion at all, so —
JAFFE: 40 percent said that they did not approve though.
PSAKI: — fair, but also up three — one-third said they had no view. I think that right now, our focus is not on looking at the poll. It is on implementing solutions, which is no question to address what is what we view as no question, a difficult challenge, and hoping that we can ensure we are protecting these kids. We are continuing to reassert to the region, the border’s not open. The majority of people, adults who come to the border are turned away, continuing to implement programs in the region, whether it’s working with them to address root causes or working with them to restart programs that can help kids from apply within country, that we feel those are the ways we can help address what is no question, a challenging issue.
1:45 p.m. Eastern
FABIAN: I just wanted to ask you a question about Major League Baseball. The league decided to move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta. That’s something that the President said he supported before and does he then agree with their decision to move that game out of Atlanta because of the voting law?
PSAKI: Well, I wish I had had this with me on Friday because I got asked a question and there’s just some help, what I thought would be helpful context. And I know you probably don’t have the transcript in front of you. So, when the President was asked during an ESPN interview — last week, he was asked the question, “Last week, Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director said that he would look forward to discussing moving the All-Star Game from Atlanta in the wake of Georgia’s governor signing into law, a bill passed by the Republican-led state legislature to overhaul how its state elections are run. How do you view this possibility of moving the All-Star Game out of Georgia?” He said, “I think today’s professional athletes are acting incredibly responsible. I would strongly support them doing that.” So, he was not dictating up for what Major League Baseball should do, that they should — dictating they should move the All-Star Game, that was their decision. They made that decision. And as he stated earlier, he certainly supports that.
FABIAN: He does support the decision to move the game?
PSAKI: Well, he supports them being able to make the decision and respond to what their players, you know, asks are given. Many of them are impacted, of course, by these laws.
1:51 p.m. Eastern
O’DONNELL: In clarifying today, are you trying to roll back what the President said about the All-Star Game?
PSAKI: No, I’m trying to articulate clearly to everyone what he said and what the context of his remarks were. The question that was asked and had the full scope of his answer. And I think it’s been shorthanded to no one’s fault because it’s been repeated a bit without the full context.
O’DONNELL: And Mitch McConnell says that we are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead and to use the bully pulpit about this law. Will the White House say explicitly that it is not trying to influence corporations or organizations to take action on state-level decisions like this?
PSAKI: We’ve conveyed it and I’m happy to answer your question directly. We’ve not asked corporations to take specific actions. That’s not our focus here. Our focus is on and in continuing to convey that it’s important, that voting is easier, not harder, that when there are laws in place that make it harder, we certainly express an opposition to those laws.
1:59 p.m. Eastern
GEARAN: And then back on the MLB question, given the, as you say, the President supports the ability to make this decision. Does he also support other organizations or businesses making similar moves which I guess would broadly be called boycotting at other events in other states, should they pass similar laws? I’m thinking here of Arizona and others that may be considering similar voting restriction laws.
PSAKI: That’s not something we’re calling for from the White House. Our focus is on working with Congress to put in place voting rights legislation, working with leaders — in who — like Stacey Abrams and others who are advocating for more expanded laws and more expanded information out to people to make it easier to vote, so those are — that’s really where our efforts are focused.
GEARAN: Although, I mean, some of this may be moving at a faster pace in these states than you’re going to be able to get an omnibus national voting rights law passed, so there will be moments of — there’ll be inflection moments here between now and then where other organizations would be looking at making the same kinds of decisions that MLB made. Does the President think they should be able to make those decisions and to pull out of —
PSAKI: Well I mean broadly speaking of course the President and we all believe private sector entities are going to make decisions and that’s their — their role to do so. What I’m conveying, what I can speak to is what our focus is on and what our role is here from the White House and what his energies will be directed toward, which is voting rights legislation, continuing to voice and advocate for the need to make it easier and not harder to vote. That’s where he will be spending his time and effort and as we will in the White House.