Sunday, December 5

How Jen Psaki Skillfully Dodges Fox News Verbal Grenades at Press Conferences | Biden Administration

IIs Joe Biden to Blame for Vaccine Hesitation Because He Said He Didn’t Trust Donald Trump? “It’s not that we’ve seen it in the data,” replied Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary. That was the feint. Then came the lunge for the jugular.

“I would like to point out that at the time, just for context, the former president was also suggesting that people inject versions of the poison into their veins to cure Covid.”

For the interlocutor Peter Doocy, A White House reporter for the conservative Fox News channel, there was no going back from that verbal roundhouse kick from Biden’s top media spokesman. Until next time, of course.

For four years, the White House must have felt like a playing field for Fox News. President Donald Trump was a regular online interviewee while describing other outlets as enemies of the people. His press secretaries Sean Spicer, Sarah Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany duly took a combative approach to the meeting room, throwing verbal grenades that usually did not explode.

Now the shoe is on the other foot and Fox News finds itself as the leading voice of dissent at the daily press conference, asking some of the most forceful questions as it tries to poke holes in the Biden administration.

The duels Between Doocy, son of Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy, and Psaki, a former student of the Barack Obama administration, barely ranks alongside the televised collapses of Spicer, but they offer insight into criticism from the right-wing. Biden and his strategy to neutralize them.

34-year-old Doocy comes to each briefing armed with carefully crafted questions to provoke, some would say, a “I got you!” moment or at least a viral clip, even if that clip consists simply of “The White House denies” any savage accusation thrown at it.

Psaki, 42, for her part, walks a fine line between listening to Doocy with patience and courtesy (even a hint of loss of patience would be a disastrous optics) as she sets him in place with a cutting phrase, known in social networks as a “#PsakiBomb”.

While most questions in the briefing will yield a paragraph or two at best, Doocy seems to think in terms of headlines, though they are insincere at times. On July 16, for example, went straight to the target with: “How long has the administration been spying on people’s Facebook profiles for vaccine information?”

It was an absurd premise, based on statements by officials that vaccine misinformation on Facebook can be traced to a dozen people, ignoring the fact that this figure comes from a report by the Center to Counter Digital Hate, not by the administration’s own surveillance.

Psaki responded energetically, “That was quite a loaded and inaccurate question. This is information open to the public, people who share information online, just like all of you are reporting information on your news stations. “

On July 20, Doocy noted that at least six Democrats who fled Texas to thwart a voter suppression bill in the state arrived in the U.S. capital and tested positive for coronavirus despite being vaccinated. “Are there any concerns that this trip that was intended to defend voting rights is now a high-profile event in Washington?” I ask.

First, Psaki deviated from the obvious trap: “Well, I’d say it’s not a characterization we’re doing from here on. We certainly understand that there will be important cases. Even vaccines that are incredibly effective are not foolproof. They are not 100% effective. We have seen it “.

Then he tried to turn the episode into something more positive: “However, here is the good news, we know that these people, I think, if I am correct, they have been vaccinated. It means that it protects from death; protects from serious diseases; protects, for the most part, from hospitalization. So that’s a good sign. “

On the pandemic again a week later, with masks returning to the meeting room, Doocy expressed frustration from many in her network asking that if vaccines work, “why do people who have the vaccine now need to wear masks in the same way as people who have not?”

Psaki seemed irritated and did not respond to a response that not everyone felt satisfactory: “Because the public health leaders of our administration have made the determination, based on the data, that that is one way to make sure they are protected , that your loved ones are protected. . That is an additional step, given the transmissibility of the virus, that they are advising people to take ”.

Last week, Doocy enthusiastically took advantage of the fact that Democratic Congresswoman Cori Bush hired private security while calling for the elimination of funding for the police. Psaki replied calmly, “Well, I think we shouldn’t lose the forest through the trees here,” he noted that Bush has received death threats, then added, “I will say that the president has been very clear that he is opposed to defunding the police.” .

The exchanges add a shock to what may seem like incremental questions and repetitive answers on these long, humid and soporific summer afternoons in Washington. Empty seats, once unthinkable in the Trump era, have started to reappear in the meeting room. Doocy’s aggressive approach and willingness to interrupt Psaki keep her on her toes.

Their presence also gives the White House access to a Fox News audience it might otherwise lack, and allows the administration to present itself as willing to entertain diverse opinions rather than groupthink. So when Doocy returned from a brief period of absence last month and Psaki caused laughter by saying: “Welcome back!”, maybe she was being sarcastic and sincere.

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