Jean-Pierre Unable To Explain Why Biden Was Only Informed About Extent Of Baby Formula Crisis In April

Screenshot YouTube, White House Press Briefing 6/1/22

Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
Font Size:

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre suggested Wednesday that the administration made moves to aid the baby formula prior to making President Joe Biden aware of the crisis.

After a virtual meeting with major infant formula manufacturers, Biden admitted that he wasn’t aware of the depths of the baby formula shortage until “early April” – months after Abbott Nutrition issued recalls of its products and shut down its Michigan facility. Jean-Pierre faced a barrage of questions on the subject shortly afterwards, and maintained that the administration has “been working on this issue since day one of the recall.” (RELATED: Biden Invokes Defense Production Act Amid Nationwide Baby Formula Shortage)

While she maintained that the government as a whole was responding to the situation as soon as the recall occurred, Jean–Pierre was unable to address why Biden wasn’t informed of the problem sooner. The timeline laid out by the White House combined with Biden’s remark indicates that officials were working on the problem unbeknownst to the president – a point brought up by NBC News’ White House Correspondent Kelly O’Donnell.

“You’re now sort of saying that the White House was operating on this without the president being aware of or directing those actions, and so … I think we’re all trying to understand the information flow and the decision making when there is a crises that rises to the White House’s involvement,” O’Donnell said during Wednesday’s press briefing.


After wondering whether Jean–Pierre was “questioning the April date” given by Biden – to which the press secretary said she was not – O’Donnell then asked for confirmation that the administration was admitting that the White House as a whole was “engaged” on the issue prior to Biden himself being briefed.

“Right, which is not an unusual thing, as you know,” Jean–Pierre confirmed. “This is a very common way of operation, way of moving – nothing unusual about this. You’re asking me to confirm something [the timeline] and I was in my office, I did not actually hear what the president said.”

“What I’m trying to say is that his [Biden’s] team – on very high levels, who run his policy offices, who run his department – have been working on this since day one,” she added before reiterating that “it’s not uncommon” for situations like this to occur.

Later on in the briefing, Jean–Pierre was asked in general, how serious a situation must be for it to be brought to the president’s attention. The press secretary issued a long-winded answer, reiterating that the White House has been involved in the crisis since day one and that “there are always multiple crises” occurring.