National Journal White House correspondent George Condon accused the White House of showing the “least transparency in 50 years” by not having the president’s physician brief the press Thursday.
Condon said it was a necessity that Dr. Kevin O’Connor brief the press, rather than simply release a public statement about President Joe Biden’s health after he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier Thursday.
“When will Dr. O’Connor come up? Because to just put out a statement and shield him from questions would be the least transparency of any White House in 50 years on a presidential illness,” Condon said.
“Wow, I wholeheartedly disagree on your last statement,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “We are doing this very differently, very differently I would argue than the last administration, and I’m happy to have that conversation with you. Number one, we did not see the president because we are following CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidance, and the CDC guidance is to make sure that we have minimal contact with the president and allow him to isolate and allow him to get his treatment to get better.”
She argued the letter about Biden contracting COVID-19 was “transparent” as it notified the press and the public of his condition.
Two other White House reporters pressed Jean-Pierre on not having O’Connor briefed the press. One reporter accused the White House of “playing a game of telephone.” (RELATED: FLASHBACK: Biden Tells Americans You Can’t Get COVID If You’re Vaxxed)
“Could we get the president’s physician here so we can not play the game of telephone?” she asked.
“I don’t think this is a game of telephone,” Jean-Pierre said. “You have Dr. [Ashish] Jha, who is a medical doctor himself who runs our COVID-19 response. You’re going to hear regularly, to your statement, from Dr. O’Connor and so we are going to be transparent as we have been. We put out a statement this morning, we put out a letter from Dr. O’Connor, you have both of us here taking your questions and answering them. You saw a picture of the president, you saw a video of the president. We are doing this very differently and we are going to continue to provide information for all of you and also the American public.”
A third White House reporter questioned why O’Connor was not present at the briefing to go into depth about the current condition of the president and the treatments and medications he has been prescribed to take.
“There’s obviously a few questions you can’t answer about the timeline, about monoclonal antibody treatments, about the medications he’s on,” the reporter said. “Why isn’t he at the podium right now to answer the question?”
The press secretary said Jha detailed the medications the president is taking and will share any changes to his condition and forms of treatment. Jean-Pierre announced early Thursday that the president is taking Paxlovid and has been experiencing “very mild symptoms.”
O’Connor said in a letter that the president is experiencing a runny nose, fatigue and a dry cough and that he will comply with CDC guidance by remaining in isolation.