The White House press corps has never been a fan of guns or the Second Amendment, so it was no surprise on Friday when multiple reporters hammered President Joe Biden and Press Secretary Jen Psaki from their left flank on gun control. In one instance, a reporter compared gun violence to the coronavirus pandemic and demanded their responses be of equal vigor.
Capping off his first foreign head-of-state visitor to the White House in Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Biden wrapped up his week with a brief, joint press conference with Suga (which followed the traditional two-and-two model of two reporters from each country’s press corps being called on).
The Associated Press’s Aamer Madhani took his shot with a question similar to one he asked Psaki hours earlier, which suggested that Biden made a mistake by focusing on his so-called infrastructure package instead of gun control:
Mr. President, in your last press conference, you said successful presidents prioritize and that you were focusing your agenda on one thing at a time. And I’d like to just ask you, what would you say to many Americans who voted for you about the legislative progress on gun control and police reform, having to wait while we pursue infrastructure, given that we continue to see these incidents with mass shootings and also police involved shootings, including the incident a lot of us saw in Chicago most recently. Do you feel any need to reprioritize your agenda?
Biden quickly grew angry, saying he’s “never not prioritized to this” and insisted that gun owners not only support “universal background checks,” but also the banning of both “assault weapons” and any gun “that can hold 100 rounds, or 40 rounds, or 20 rounds.” In other words, that would be gun confiscation or criminalize the very act of gun ownership for millions of Americans.
Reuters’s Trevor Hunnicutt was the only other White House reporter called on and though he didn’t ask about gun control, his question was also a softball as he gave Biden the floor to provide an “update...on how the talks are going with Iran” amidst the news that Iran has decided to increase uranium enrichment to 60 percent.
Reporters from both the U.S. and the visiting country usually each ask a question of both leaders, but that wasn’t the case here as Hunnicutt was the only reporter to work in a question to both leaders.
Back in 2017 during President Trump’s first press conference with a foreign leader (then-U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May), he received quite the opposite reception as he went toe-to-toe with a BBC reporter.
Back in 2021, Madhani had a narrative to push and, as we said earlier, he first deployed this activist-like line of questioning to Psaki in the 11:00 a.m. Eastern hour (click “expand”):
MADHANI: In addition to the awful situation in Indianapolis yesterday, in Chicago, there was a video released of really bad [INAUDIBLE] isn’t a proper word, but chilling video of the police shooting death of Adam Toledo. There’s rough — tensions are running high in Brooklyn Center. The George Floyd trial is still going on. I — I was wondering, does the President regret, you know, prioritizing infrastructure at this point, when this — racial equality and the adjacent issue of gun reform sort of fit in those four buckets that you guys talked about right from the beginning? Is there — is there any regrets on the prioritization?
PSAKI: Well first, I would say the President believes that we, leaders, can do more than one thing at one time and yes, we’ve proposed an American Jobs Plan...At the same time, as I just reiterated at the beginning, the President has used the power of his office to put in place, take executive actions, pull his own levers to ensure that we are doing more to address gun violence. At the same time, he’s also working with Congress to move forward on the George Floyd Act.
MADHANI: Point taken and on the George Floyd Act, can you offer any details on how exactly — who’s making the calls? What’s being done, from the White House and from the President and Vice President on down, to lobby Congress and make it happen?
NBC’s Mike Memoli became a reliable sycophant during the 2020 presidential campaign, so it was no surprise to us when his first Briefing Room appearance during the Biden administration included questions from the left and that bizarre tie-in between the coronavirus pandemic and guns (click “expand”):
To follow up on the issue of guns, by some measures this is at least the third mass shooting of this President’s young administration. He’s described this as an epidemic, gun violence in this country, and we’ve seen in terms of the response to COVID-19 what an all of government response from this administration looks like to a pandemic. Why not the same level of response to this ongoing issue of gun violence, the appointing of a senior czar, for instance, beyond just the efforts that are being made on legislation?
On legislation, just a few weeks ago, I asked the President if he was going to be making phone calls to Republicans in particular in the Senate to try to advance the background check legislation there. He said he would be willing to, I know the jobs bill has been the priority. Is there more you can say about the kind of outreach he’s been doing on background checks specifically?
ABC’s Maryalice Parks likewise sounded like someone from Everytown or the Giffords Center, expressing frustration with hearing Psaki “talk over and over again about the President’s support of the House bills, but right now it just doesn’t seem like they’re — you guys have those votes in the Senate.”
Asking whether there’s a chance for “a more limited package,” Parks then urged Psaki to “pitch something a little bit more limited” so that something could “get...across the finish line.”
After Psaki blamed Republicans for a lack of new gun control measures, Parks tried again:
And you’re saying that — that the executive action that the President took on gun safety were initial steps. You said you used that phrase over and over. So, what’s — what’s next? Give us some preview of what other executive actions you guys are considering because otherwise, it’s just passing the buck to Capitol Hill.