With Cubans having taken to the street over the weekend to protest the 62 years of communist rule that worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, AP and CNN White House reporters used Monday’s briefing to side with their friends in the Communist Party, and demand Press Secretary Jen Psaki blame former President Trump’s posture toward the island nation for its economic ruin.
Fortunately, Fox News’s Peter Doocy returned from a week off to call out the spin that the protests stemmed from coronavirus cases while the Daily Caller’s Shelby Talcott asked whether the administration agreed with The New York Times that the American flag — which Cubans waved as they marched — was “alienating the some.”
AP reporter and MSNBC contributor Jonathan Lemire asked the first Cuba question of the briefing, but his anti-Trump hatred clouded his judgment as he wondered if Team Biden would blame his predecessor for Cuba’s precarious position:
[W]e saw the President’s statement today about the demonstrations there on the island yesterday, two questions on that. But why hasn't President Biden taken steps to undo some of the things that his predecessor, Donald Trump, did to overturn the overtures made by President Obama? And then secondly, we heard there's obviously great cry yesterday during these protests for vaccines. Is Cuba on the list to get vaccines the United States?
Psaki refused to take the bait, noting that Congress has given millions in the last 12 years to “democracy assistance” and, in the “last year alone, the U.S. exported $176 million of goods to Cuba” and, “[i]n the first six months of 2021, [Cuba] imported $123 million worth of chicken from the United States.”
And on vaccines, Psaki correctly cited the oppressive regime’s refusal to join the global vaccine-sharing initiative (known as COVAX) that would have made them eligible to receive U.S. vaccines.
As NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell would do later on, Reuter’s Jeff Mason wanted to know whether the Biden administration would undergo a “policy review” towards Cuba, but Psaki reiterated that the “protests were spontaneous expressions of people who are exhausted with the Cuban government's economic mismanagement and repression and those — these are protests inspired by the harsh reality of everyday life in Cuba, not people in another country.”
Of course, she refused to cite the left-wing ideology running Cuba’s government.
Fast-forward 20 minutes and Collins perfectly represented the Jeffrey Zucker-led network’s Trump obsession and need to defend left-wing ideologies at all costs as she blamed Trump for Cuba’s decrepit conditions (click “expand”):
COLLINS: And on Cuba, in this White House statement today, you note the “tragic grip of the pandemic,” but under current U.S. sanctions that were put in place by the last administration, but have not been changed by this administration, Cuban exiles cannot send remittances to their family that lives in Cuba. So, why is the Biden administration continuing that policy?
PSAKI: Well I would say again, even under the embargo, there are a number of exemptions, I should say. Humanitarian assistance, medical supplies that we've continued to provide assistance to the people of Cuba, even with that in place, but I have nothing to preview for you in terms of a change of policy.
COLLINS: But even though the President said he was going to reverse the policy, you can't say when he plans to reverse the policy?
PSAKI: Again, these protests happened yesterday, I think — or over the last two days.
COLLINS: But he made the promise in September.
PSAKI: I — I certainly understand, Caitlin. But there's nothing I can preview for you. But to be accurate, There are exemptions that we can send — had — medical supplies. We can send humanitarian supplies. That's something we've been doing for some time from the U.S. government.
As for Doocy, he started with a back-and-forth about vaccine mandates (which left a flustered Psaki to sarcastically tell him, “welcome back”), but pivoted to Cuba and specifically the disconnect between Psaki claiming Cubans were upset with their government and the State Department blaming it on COVID cases.
Psaki tried to engage in damage control, but Doocy called out the insanity in claiming the Cubans protesting “freedom” and “enough” were demanding liberation from the coronavirus (click “expand”):
PSAKI: Well, I would say first that the protests were just happening yesterday. We’re still assessing what is motivating and, of course, in driving all of the individuals who came to the streets, but we know that when I — we say exhaustion, the — the — the — the manner by which the people of Cuba are governed, that can cover a range of issues, whether it's economics suppression, media suppression, lack of access to health and medical supplies, including vaccines. There are a range of reasons and voices we're hearing from people on the ground who are protesting.
DOOCY: So when these protesters are yelling, freedom and enough, there are people within the administration who think they are saying freedom from rising COVID cases?
PSAKI: Again, I would say that when people are out there in the streets protesting and complaining about the lack of access to, uh, economic prosperity to the medical supplies they need to, a life they deserve to live that can take on a range of meetings. There's a global pandemic right now. Most people in that country don't have access to vaccines. That’s certainly something we'd love to help with.
Unlike Collins and Lemire, Talcott showed up ready to go with a real question, pointing to The Times’s aversion to the American flag and wanting to know what the Biden administration made of that take considering the fact that Cubans flew the stars and stripes over the weekend (just pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters had in years past).
A stammering Psaki acknowledged that Biden “values and respects the — the symbol of the American flag” because he “waves it outside of his house or does in Delaware and other places where he's lived....but he also believes that people have the right to peaceful protests, and he thinks both can be true.”
To see the relevant transcript from July 12's briefing (including questions from the left on the filibuster and voting rights from The Grio’s April Ryan and The Washington Post’s Matt Viser), click here.