White House press secretary Jen Psaki got into a heated exchange with a reporter Tuesday when she refused to answer a question about President Joe Biden.
Psaki was asked by the New York Post’s Steven Nelson about a Vanity Fair report from December. It alleged that experts briefed the White House’s COVID-19 advisors about pandemic response strategies and were told they should ship free rapid tests to households ahead of the holidays in case of a new surge.
The report stated that members of Biden’s team were briefed on the plan, which was ultimately rejected, but did not explicitly state that Biden himself was briefed or made the decision not to send the tests. Nelson asked Psaki whether Biden had been briefed now that the White House is sending free tests to Americans starting this month.
Rather than answer directly, Psaki rattled off a list of actions the president had facilitated and emphasized that the administration was following through now by sending out free tests.
“The president used the Defense Production Act, invested $3 billion to expand it, quadrupled the size of our testing capacity, and now we’ve ordered one billion doses,” Psaki said. “So we see that as, our COVID team, the members who participated, saw that as a very constructive meeting, a good meeting, a lot of which we worked to implement.”
Nelson pressed Psaki over her non-answer, asking again if President Biden was briefed at the time: “How can President Biden shut down the virus if he’s not being briefed on these ideas … was President Biden briefed on this idea at the time?”
Psaki again deflected, this time showing signs of frustration as she claimed to have answered Nelson’s question.
“I think I just answered your question, which you may not have been listening. Maybe you were waiting to read your next question, which is fine,” Psaki fired back. “But I just answered your question.”
“That’s not the question I asked,” Nelson hit back, before trying one last time to get an answer. However, Psaki said she had already answered it and that he should move on to something else or she would move on to another reporter. (RELATED: Biden Administration Confirms It Left 50 Million COVID-19 Tests Sitting In Warehouses)
The Biden administration is currently rolling out a plan to allow Americans to order free COVID-19 rapid tests online that will be shipped to them by the Postal Service starting later this month. However, the White House has faced criticism for not implementing such a plan sooner, including before the holiday Omicron variant surge.