Though not anywhere near the DEFCON-1 levels seen on social media and TV on Monday afternoon after it was announced that Elon Musk had bought Twitter, a few White House reporters expressed their misgivings during the Psaki show, including one reporter who was concerned that “purveyors of...misinformation” and “disinformation” would be allowed “to speak” on Twitter and it would be a company gone wild without “scrutiny.”
ABC’s Cecilia Vega got things started on the topic by asking Jen Psaki if the White House had “a response to” Musk’s purchase and then fretted about whether there’s “any concern that this new agreement might have President Trump back on the platform.” This was despite the fact that Trump told Fox News Digital’s Brooke Singman that he intends to say on his own site, TRUTH Social.
Psaki replied she wouldn’t “comment on a specific transaction” or “hypothetical policies” on Big Tech, but spoke generally about how “the President has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms” and thus need to “be held accountable for the harms they cause.”
A few minutes later, Reuters’s Andrea Shalal spoke up as the unnerved reporter:
Are you concerned about the kind of purveyors of election misinformation, disinformation, health falsehoods, sort of, having more of an opportunity to speak there on Twitter? Is there, you know, any message that you would convey to Elon Musk as the new owner? And, you know, I would maybe just add to it that, you know, public — publicly traded companies have different levels of — there’s different levels of scrutiny that are possible of publicly traded companies. So, are you concerned about, you know, a billionaire taking control of a company that — where there’s already a lot of concentration of power?
Psaki didn’t bite and also lash out at Musk, but she did state that “our concerns are not new” with Biden having “long talked about his concerns about the power of social media platforms, including Twitter and others, to spread misinformation, disinformation; the need for these platforms to be held accountable.”
At the back end of the briefing, Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann asked about the implications for efforts over the past year to work with Big Tech to tamp down on information it deemed dangerous to the public health, but Psaki stayed away.
On a separate topic, Fox’s Jacqui Heinrich pressed Psaki on the drowning of Texas National Guardsman Bishop E. Evans seeing as how the Biden administration had yet to offer a word on Evans, who died trying to rescue illegal immigrants in distress while trying to swim across the Rio Grande (click “expand”):
HEINRICH: I don’t believe the White House so far has commented on the death of Bishop Evans, the 22-year-old National Guard Specialist who drowned trying to save two migrants. I wanted to give you the opportunity to say some words on that.
PSAKI: Yes. Thank you for that, Jacqui. And the news of the confirmation that his body had been found was confirmed just a couple of hours ago. I would note that, of course, our heart goes out to his family and to his loved ones. To confirm all the specific details, he went missing on Friday, following his selfless efforts to rescue two migrants who appeared to be drowning who were trying to cross a river in Mexico that went to the United States — went into the U.S., of course. We know that National Guard personnel, including — including him, risk their lives every day to serve and protect others. And again, our hearts go out to his family. I don’t have any — in case you may ask, I don’t have any updates at this moment in terms of the President’s outreach, but if — if that is something I can update you on this afternoon, I will let you know.
HEINRICH: Does the White House feel any responsibility for his death, given that there’s reporting that he lost his life allegedly trying to save two migrants who were smuggling drugs? This is a problem that, you know, the administration has been facing for some time and is obviously, as we’ve been discussing, getting some criticism on. Is — does the White House feel at all responsible? And what — what more can you offer to people who, you know, are on the border, in border communities, who are experiencing loss and trials like this?
PSAKI: Well, of course, we are mourning the loss of his life and we are grateful for the work of every National Guardsman. I would note that the National Guard worked for the states, and so he is an employee of the Tex- — Texas National Guard, and his efforts and his operation were directed by there, not by the federal government, in this — in this effort, in this apparatus. We’ve — we’ve long stated that our immigration system is broken. There needs to be more done to invest in smarter security, to have a more effective asylum processing system. And we would welcome any efforts to — for any elected officials to work with us on that.
Heinrich also pressed on the pleas from “a lot of the border communities” for more resources and “manpower to manage” the flow of illegal immigrants, but Psaki chose to blame President Trump for having spent billions to build the border wall.
[L]ooking at White House visitor logs, there were 19 visits to the White House while the President was Vice President by Hunter Biden’s business partner, including one with the Vice President. Could you help us understand why that business partner had access and what those meetings were about?
Just as she did with the questions about Twitter (and most topics in her tenure): “I don’t have any information on that. I’m happy to check and see if we have any more comment.”
To see the relevant briefing transcript from April 25 (including a question on inflation from CNN’s M.J. Lee that drew an out-of-touch response from Psaki), click here.