Thursday’s White House press briefing marked an embarrassing display of the liberal media not only bothsidesing the Israel-Hamas war, but defending the terrorist group Hamas as credible when it comes to death counts coming out of Gaza. Thankfully, even longtime Democratic administration official and National Security Council flack John Kirby spoke for most viewers in smacking down this idiocy.
One of the more reliable straight shooters of the big outlets, Reuters’s Steve Holland got it started: “The President, yesterday, John, said he has ‘no confidence’ in the death toll numbers presented by the Palestinians in Gaza. What’s he basing that on? How did he reach this conclusion?”
Kirby didn’t mince words in stating that “we all know that the Gazan Ministry of Health is just a front for Hamas...a terrorist organization.” Therefore, he argued, “[w]e can’t take anything coming out of Hamas, including the so-called Ministry of Health, at face value.”
NBC’s Peter Alexander seemed bothered by this: “But to be clear, the President and the White House — you don’t dispute that thousands of Palestinians, many of them innocent civilians, have been killed by Israeli strikes so far, do you?”
Kirby made clear “of course” that’s “not” the case but it’s just that, in terms of specifics, “we shouldn’t rely on numbers put forth by Hamas and the Ministry of Health.”
Alexander kept pressing, whining that “it does appear, by all independent journalism, including that by a lot of people in the room” that Hamas is largely correct. He also wondered if the White House is concerned about Israel not “protect[ing] innocent lives” (click “expand”):
ALEXANDER: So, they say it’s more than 7,000. Is there any way to assess how many it is? Are you sug- — I mean, the President said — it was pretty dramatic moment when he said, “Yeah, we don’t have any confidence in that.” We respect that you can’t und — you can’t take Hamas at its word, but it does appear, by all independent journalism, including that by a lot of people in the room, that thousands of Palestinians have been killed. Would you agree?
KIRBY: We would no — we would not dispute that.
ALEXANDER: Okay. Then let me ask you, if I can, very quickly, is the White House satisfied that Israel, to this point, has obeyed the laws of war, the rules of war, as the President has indicated? And is Israel, in the White House’s view, doing enough to this point to protect innocent lives?
KIRBY: Again, we’re not going to react in real time to events unfolding on the battlefield and every allegation and every — every strike. We’re just not going to do that —
ALEXANDER: But that means it’s not until the war is completed that you guys could have an assessment of whether —
KIRBY: I didn’t say that either.
KIRBY: I just said we’re not going to react in real time here, Peter. We have been in constant touch with our Israeli counterparts since the very early hours of this conflict to make sure we’re asking them the hard questions that they — we want them to ask themselves and to reiterate — as the President said yesterday, to rei- — reiterate that — that there is a — there is an added burden here on Israel to make sure that they are doing everything they can to minimize civilian casualties. And we’re in constant communication with them about that.
Having already voiced in a company e-mail caution against calling Hamas terrorists, Patsy Widakuswara of the taxpayer-funded Voice of America stood up for them in public: “[D]oes the President have faith in the numbers released by the West Bank Ministry of Health, which is run by Palestinian authorities, that says there’s been more than 100 West Bank Palestinians killed by what the President called ‘extremist settlers’?”
Kirby wasn’t having it, saying he knows of “no dispute with the rough numbers coming out of there, either.”
McClatchy’s Michael Wilner went there too, wondering if the U.S. knows what’s the breakdown in Gazan casualties between “Hamas militants versus civilians,” but Kirby said he didn’t know.
Speaking of taxpayer-funded outlets, NPR’s Franco Ordoñez had perhaps the second-most contentious exchange of the briefing (after this one with TV Globo’s Raquel Krähenbühl trying to say Biden and Kirby are being too “harsh” on the war).
Ordoñez first asked whether it’s “wrong” for “[a]id groups, including the United Nations, that are working in Gaza” to be “cit[ing] those numbers of the Health Ministry.”
Offering a rhetorical shrug, Kirby said that “[t]hey can make their own decisions”.
Krähenbühl interjected that the State Department had cited them and, after thanking her, Ordoñez was confused at how the government could claim “Hamas is now manipulating the numbers now but not before.”
Kirby unloaded on the leftist reporter, first with some attitude: “Well, do you remember that attack on the hospital? And what did the Gaza Ministry of Health put out? Something like 500? They slapped the number of 500 on it, you know, within the hour of — of that attack.”
Adding that they also lied in claiming “was an Israeli airstrike,” they were disproven on two major counts. After the qualifier that even a couple hundred casualties is “atrocious,” “terrible,” and “sad,” he didn’t budge:
[T]he numbers are not reliable...I don’t need to tell you how to do your jobs, but if you’re going to report casualty figures out of Gaza, I would, frankly, recommend you don’t choose numbers put out by an organization that’s run by a terrorist organization.
Asked by al-Jazeera’s Kimberly Halkett if the U.S. is concerned Israel’s targeting journalists, Kirby adamantly denied it: “I’ve not seen any indication whatsoever that Israel was going after journalists...I’ve seen absolutely zero evidence of that. I — that is — that’s an unfounded allegation.”
On a non-Gaza topic, the Fox Business Network’s Edward Lawrence grilled National Economic Council chair Lael Brainard on the fact that, despite a better-than-expected GDP report on the growth of the economy, it nonetheless “showed that personal savings dropped by $360 million.”
“Do you have a message to Americans who are dipping into those savings to afford the inflation,” he asked.
Brainard dismissed this is happening given “Americans...are actually seeing increase in their wealth over this period” (click “expand”):
BRAINARD: Americans are back in the labor force in record numbers, much higher participation than was anticipated, and higher than pre-pandemic. So, they’re at work, and that is showing up also in the wealth number. So, if you actually look at American households’ median wealth in inflation-adjusted terms, it’s actually gone up since before the pandemic. So, I think the U.S. consumer, U.S. workers, they are absolutely the reason that we’re seeing this resilience in the economy, and they are actually seeing increase in their wealth over this period.
LAWRENCE: But what about a message to Americans who are dipping into savings to afford their lifestyle?
BRAINARD: So, I think that, again, because net wealth is rising, because real incomes are rising, because Americans are working, that’s exactly what we would want to see in the economy.
To see the relevant transcript from the October 26 briefing (including more Hamas-friendly or Israel-skeptical questions), click here.