President Joe Biden said Wednesday he wasn’t aware of the depths of the baby formula shortage until April – months after Abbott Nutrition issued recalls of its products and shut down its Michigan facility.
Biden made the remark following a virtual meeting with major infant formula manufacturers. During the meeting, multiple executives noted that they knew there would be a huge problem as soon as Abbott Nutrition, the country’s largest baby formula manufacturer, issued recalls and shut down.
“We knew from the very beginning that this would be a very serious event,” one executive said during the meeting.
Abbott Nutrition issued a recall back in February and subsequently shuttered its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, CNBC reported. Despite manufacturers being immediately aware of the impact this would have on baby formula across the U.S., the president admitted he wasn’t aware until later.
“I don’t think anyone anticipated the impact of the shutdown of one facility,” Biden first said Wednesday. “Once we learned of the extent of it, and how broad it was, we’ve kicked everything in the gear [sic]. And I think we’re on the way to be able to completely solve the problem.” (RELATED: Biden Invokes Defense Production Act Amid Nationwide Baby Formula Shortage)
When pressed on the fact that multiple executives had just noted they knew immediately that there would be problems from the facility shutting down, Biden declared that “they did, but I didn’t” before going on to say he wasn’t aware of the depths of the problem until “early April.”
“Here’s the deal,” Biden said. “I became aware of this problem sometime in early April, about how intense it was. We did everything in our power from that point on.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre maintained that the administration has “been working on this issue since day one of the recall.” She wouldn’t directly answer when asked when, exactly, the White House was informed of the crisis, later reiterating that the government “has been working on this since the recall.”
“I don’t have the timeline on that,” Jean-Pierre said after being asked a second time for a specific timeline.
Biden’s remarks muddy the waters on when, exactly, the administration was made aware of the crisis. Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, also said in May that “the administration has been on this from the get-go.”