Though he had been back for a few weeks since the February 1 birth of his daughter with wife and Fox Business correspondent Hillary Vaughn, Wednesday marked Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy’s first White House briefing since January 27. Not surprisingly, he was still prepared as he grilled the ever-inept Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on whether President Biden is “afraid of China.”
Doocy started with that very question: “Why is President Biden afraid of China?” Jean-Pierre insisted that he’s not and her evidence was comical as she invoked Biden’s visit to Ukraine.
“Look, this is not a President who's afraid of anything. It was a historic trip that many of you said was brave, so clearly, this is a president that's not afraid to go to a war zone,” she said, arguing that Doocy’s question was bunk because...journalists loved Biden in Ukraine?
Doocy countered that, along with China being allowed to fly “spycraft over the U.S.” and nothing happened to them, Biden hasn’t shown a willingness to punish them when they “may have created something that has killed more 1.1 million people in this country”.
Jean-Pierre said a whole lot of nothing as, on the balloon, Biden “did take that down...collected information from it...protected on national security information on the ground, and “protected the American people.”
And on COVID origins, Biden has maintained “we need to...get to the bottom of” what happened.
Doocy then dropped the hammer
[W]ith his campaign, it was all about shutting down the virus and how hard it is for families with an empty chair at the kitchen table because of COVID. If we now know, according to the FBI director, who was most likely responsible for all those empty chairs at all those kitchen tables, why not do more to try to hold them accountable?
Jean-Pierre started to spin a web about “a comprehensive plan” to address the virus’s spread, so Doocy interjected that “that is responding to COVID, but” not “where did COVID come from.”
She snapped back: “Peter, you can't tell me — first of all, you can't tell me how to answer the question. I'm going to answer it for you, right? So, just give me a second.”
A meandering essay later about Biden’s “leadership” ensuring “the economy is growing again” and “tak[ing] on COVID” and Biden showing leadership by having “the intelligence community” discuss amongst themselves, she moved on.
NBC’s Peter Alexander stepped into the void by asking if the White House disagrees with Congressman Mike Gallagher’s (R-WI) belief that the China-U.S. relationship isn’t a “competition” but “and existential struggle.”
Jean-Pierre disagreed because “under this President, we are more prepared to out-compete China, protect our security, and advance a free and open Indo-Pacific than ever before.”
Rewinding to the start of the briefing and China was still a focus, except it concerned an upcoming federal ban of TikTok on government electronics. Along with the AP’s Aamer Madhani questioning whether TikTok is “safe for” kids, CBS’s Weijia Jiang pressed on whether Biden will go further.
To both, Jean-Pierre copped to TikTok having serious “concerns” and “present[s] national security risks,” something Jean-Pierre and predecessor Jen Psaki avoid saying for years (click “expand”):
MADHANI: TikTok isn’t safe for government workers’ devices. Does the President believe it's safe for Americans’ children's smartphones?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m glad that you asked about that because, look, we have been clear about our concerns about TikTok, apps like TikTok and certainly our concerns with countries, including China, have — as they seek to leverage digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that can present harm and — and risk to our national security, clearly.
JIANG: [D]oes the President believe that TikTok is a threat to national security?
JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we have concerns. We have concerns about the app and that's why we have called on Congress to act and — including and I mentioned earlier, just moments ago, including what China, how China is trying to collect the privacy of Americans in a way that it would have — it — can present national security risks, so yes, we have concerns about that and, and look, we're going to continue to, again, to call on Congress. I just laid out the President's unity agenda and what he's looking to do and the actions that he wants to take from the executive branch of his authority. And so we're going to continue to call that out.
JIANG: Does that — do the actions include a ban on all devices in the U.S.?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, what I — would I would say is this: the White House does not use TikTok and — but we do believe — we do believe that — that — you know, Congress took action and so, therefore — clearly, we're — we're — they took action and put this into law and clearly, we’re taking — taking those steps as it — as it relates to the federal government. Outside of that, we know that CFIUS has an ongoing investigation or — ongoing — looking at this — looking at this situation, so I'm not going to go beyond what CFIUS is doing.
JIANG: And I guess what I'm trying to understand is, you know, has the President not issued a federal ban on TikTok on all devices because he does not think it's a threat to national security or because he does not have a legal mechanism to do so?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm not going to get into the specifics on what he has legally to do so or to not do so. What I'm saying — and we've been very clear that TikTok, you know, poses a problem and an issue and so, we have concerns about that as it relates to Americans data, collecting Americans’ data and the potential national security risk. And we've been very, very clear on that. Again, CIFUS has an ongoing process that they're going — they're working through, so I'm going to let that — that speak for itself what they come up with.
Prior to Doocy, Fox Business’s Edward Lawrence had a simple question about “why did he wait so long” since “29 states have already done it.” Jean-Pierre refused to answer, insisting there’s been a “process” underway.
At the tail end of the briefing, Politico’s Lauren Egan called out the White House’s TikTok hypocrisy seeing as how they’ve “had TikTok influencers in the building before” and “briefed them” on issues they want promoted on the platform despite these concerns.
Jean-Pierre expressed zero regret because while the White House doesn’t use it, it’s also worth “meeting the American people where they are”.
To see the relevant transcript from March 1’s briefing, click here.