White House press secretary Jen Psaki engaged in a contentious back-and-forth with Fox News reporter Peter Doocy on Monday during which Psaki defended accusations that the Republican Party defunded police.
That's right. Despite far-left lawmakers and activists adopting the "defund the police" campaign amid racially charged protests last summer, the White House is now coalescing around the message that Republicans voted to defund the police, therefore making them responsible for the nationwide spike in violent crime.
What is the background?
Despite Republicans never having voted to remove funds from police — which would be the standard definition of "defund" — Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, accused Republicans of defunding police in an interview on Sunday because they did not vote for Biden's America Rescue Plan, the $1.9 COVID-related stimulus passed this spring.
Let's talk about who defunded the police. When we were in Congress last year trying to pass ... an emergency relief plan for cities that were cash-strapped and laying off police and firefighters, it was the Republicans who objected to it. And in fact, they didn't get funding until the American Rescue Plan, which our plan allowed state and local governments to replenish their police departments and do the other things that are needed. So look, Republicans are very good at staying on talking points of who says defund the police, but the truth is, they defunded the police, we funded crime intervention, and a whole bunch of other things.
The truth is, of course, that Republicans opposed the massive spending bill because Democrats loaded it with spending completely unrelated to the COVID pandemic.
What happened between Psaki and Doocy?
During Monday's White House press briefing, Doocy confronted Psaki over the White House's newest position — and she actually defended it.
"How is it that that is an argument to be made when the president never mentioned needing money for police to stop a crime wave when he was selling the American Rescue Plan?" Doocy asked.
In response, Psaki claimed funding from the America Rescue Plan "has been used to keep cops on the beat." But, as Doocy shot back, it is now very convenient for Democrats, as cities face skyrocketing violent crime amid a nationwide police officer shortage, to now say the bill was about funding police.
"At the time, [the bill] was sold as: These local police departments might have a pandemic-related budget shortfall — not, 'We need to keep cops on the beat because there's crime wave,'" Doocy told Psaki.
Psaki shot back, "I think that any local department would argue that keeping cops on the beat to keep communities safe when they had to because of budget shortfalls — fire, police — is something that helps them address crime in their local communities."
"But those are the local communities. The White House's argument was: The American Rescue Plan is going to be $1,400 checks. It's going to be vaccines, vaccinators. It's going to put us on the path to beating the virus," Doocy again pointed out.
Psaki did not respond to Doocy's point, but instead praised the bill before quickly moving on to a different question.