Fox News reporter Peter Doocy confronted White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday over the timing of new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifting face mask restrictions for fully vaccinated Americans.
What is the background?
Republicans accused the Biden administration of rolling out new guidance on Thursday — that allows fully vaccinated Americans to return to normal life — to score political brownie points.
"Why today? The science hasn't changed," Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said.
"While the new mask guidance is encouraging, the CDC and my Far Radical Left colleagues only chose to do this to distract from the consequences of catastrophic policy decisions that have been heard around the world," Rep. Andy Biggs, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, said.
"Inflation is rising, the Middle East is in shambles, the working class can't fill up their gas tanks, our border is being overrun and the Biden Administration's leadership is nowhere to be found," he added.
What happened at the press briefing?
Not only did Doocy question whether the new guidance was politically motivated, but he confronted Psaki with President Joe Biden's own words in March about lifting pandemic-related restrictions.
In March, Biden accused Texas and Mississippi of "Neanderthal thinking" after those states decided to lift pandemic-related restrictions and rescind mask mandates.
Noting that fewer than half of American adults are fully vaccinated, Doocy asked, "So, what happened to President Biden saying in March that he thought lifting mask mandates before every adult American goes and gets a shot is 'Neanderthal thinking?'"
In response, Psaki said science has been the government's "North Star," and she denied claims that the CDC's new guidance was politically motivated.
Well, first, let me say that the president— our North Star has been listening to the guidance of our health and medical experts and teams, and that's exactly what we're doing in this case. And just to reiterate: The CDC — the doctors and medical experts there — were the ones who determined what this guidance would be, based on their own data, and what the timeline would be. That was not a decision directed by, made by the White House. The White House was informed of that decision, just to give people assurance of that.
Because Psaki did not directly address Doocy's question, the Fox News reporter doubled down, asking again if Biden still believes states like Texas and Mississippi — those that reopened months ago — are guilty of "Neanderthal thinking?"
Pskai, however, did not directly address Biden's words in her response.
Well, again, I would say that even with this guidance that's out there, the guidance is not telling states and localities exactly how they should implement. As you know, there are some localities and states in the country that have higher rates of vaccination than others, some communities that have higher rates of vaccinations than others. And we even know, as this is being implemented, that different localities, businesses will implement it in the way that they feel will help ensure their community is safe.
But I know I am reassured by listening to the guidance of health and medical experts, not political decision-making. So, that's the point we're at now.
Jen Psaki holds White House press briefing | 5/14/2021 youtu.be