White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declined to say on Wednesday whether President Joe Biden would drink the water in East Palestine, Ohio, when he visits the site of a February 2023 train derailment.
Biden announced Wednesday he would visit the city where the Feb. 3, 2023, derailment occurred; the train carried toxic chemicals, which spilled during the derailment, prompting evacuations and shelter-in-place orders as authorities moved to address the release of the chemicals. A reporter asked Jean-Pierre whether Biden would drink water in the town, prompting her to dodge the question. (RELATED: ‘It Smelled So Bad’: Store Owner Describes Fallout From Toxic Train Derailment)
“Next month, when the president is in East Palestine, will he drink the water there?” a reporter asked Jean-Pierre.
Biden had previously promised to visit East Palestine in March 2023. Former President Donald Trump visited East Palestine in February 2023, donating bottled water and pallets of supplies to assist residents in the town.
— Alexa Schwerha (@alexaschwerha1) February 22, 2023
“I mean, look, what I can tell you is, the president’s focus has been to do everything that he can to support this community from day one,” Jean-Pierre responded. “We get what’s going on on the ground. We understand what’s going — that’s why we’ve had the EPA, that’s why we had DOT, that’s why we had HHS, that’s why we’ve had FEMA on the ground.”
“You know, this is not about some sort of, like, political stunt here. This is not about — this is not with this is about. This is about this president being a president for everyone and showing up, showing up for this community. That’s what this is about,” Jean-Pierre continued. “I’m not going to get into some sort of political stunts about drinking — about drinking water. What we’re gonna focus about is making sure they have what they need, and the president was invited by the mayor, by community leaders, he’s going to show up. He always said he would be there when it was the most helpful.” (RELATED: ‘Truly Crazy’: Tucker Carlson Breaks Down Where Ukraine Aid Could Have Gone In America)
Biden received criticism for visiting Ukraine instead of East Palestine in the weeks after the derailment, with some calling his decision a “slap in the face.”
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, came under fire for his handling of the derailment, including for not discussing the situation in public until posting a thread on Twitter on Feb. 13, ten days after the accident. That same day, Buttigieg expressed concern about the demographics of construction workers.
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