'WE'RE GOING TO KEEP ASKING?': Press turns on Karine Jean Pierre after another shambolic briefing
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wouldn't say why Biden wasn't informed about the baby formula shortage until April
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dodged repeated questions on when exactly President Joe Biden was briefed on baby formula shortages and by whom. Biden shocked everyone on Wednesday, June 1 when he said he wasn’t told about the crisis until “early April,” but Jean-Pierre — during a second day of grilling about the timeline of the crisis — said he actually became aware in “late April.” In the course of the briefing, she backtracked and then refused to say who informed Biden. The president waited until mid-May to invoke federal powers as parents became increasingly desperate.
Jean-Pierre was increasingly evasive in her answers to the barrage of questions directed her way, saying it was 'senior staff' who went through 'regular channels' to deliver the information. Her lack of details prompted one White House correspondent to warn her that the journalists would keep pressing her for specifics.
Veteran journalists tore into Jean-Pierre, who became press secretary just last month, pointing out that they’d sought the same information earlier and were told she’d check with the president to confirm when he learned that a Feb 17 recall and factory closure would cause nationwide formula shortages. During the briefing, Kelly O’Donnell, NBC News reporter told Jean-Pierre, "On the issue of who briefed the president on baby formula, to say there was no specific person is not a satisfactory answer.” “When you have senior assistants to the president, there’s a paper trail, I’m sure, about briefings to the president,” O’Donnell continued.
To this, Jean-Pierre responded, "What I’m trying to say there’s so many issues that come up that is presented to the president, as you know, you’ve covered many administrations,” Jean-Pierre responded. “And there are just regular channels that that happen that go to the president.” O’Donnell further went on to say, "We’re talking about the consumer side of it, of what you’re doing putting out and trying to get information, But we’re also trying to understand the information flow in this White House. And it’s important for us to get that answer, which is why we’re going to keep asking it until we get that answer.”
A showdown between Jean-Pierre and journalists was widely expected after she pleaded for time to ask Biden about his Wednesday, June 1 afternoon remark that he learned of shortages in April — then waited until mid-May to publicly address the matter. However, even on the second day, Jean-Pierre struggled to answer questions as the White House has come under fire for not acting quickly enough to get formula on shelves.
She was grilled by reporters on Wednesday, June 1, and had no additional answers when asked about the issue again on Thursday, June 2. In addition to this, her responses to questions about how Biden wanted to tackle gun crime were also nothing spectacular. The new press sec seemed clearly exasperated on being asked about why Biden was planning to head to his beachside home in Delaware after delivering a major speech on gun control on Thursday, June 2. She struggled to explain why he was not staying in Washington to work with Congress.
Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked if Biden was "going to bring any of the key players from Capitol Hill to the beach with him tonight?" and while she had already hinted to the press that Biden would take time and wanted to give lawmakers space and time for their own negotiations, she tackled his inquiry with a terse reply. "Do you want to go to the beach with the president tonight? Is that what you're trying to tell me?" she asked.
"He has been crystal clear that Congress needs to act," she said. "The president has done more through executive action, as you've heard us say, than any other president in their first year in history, and the president has directed his staff to continue to explore additional actions we can take. But we can't do this alone and it's time for Congress to act," she added.