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WH press secretary confronted over Biden's travel ban hypocrisy, dodges question

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Why aren't Biden's new coronavirus travel restrictions 'xenophobic'?

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

As President Joe Biden moves to impose new coronavirus-related travel restrictions, some are noting the president's apparent hypocrisy considering that he called former President Donald Trump's travel restrictions "xenophobic."

President Biden on Monday will formally reinstate COVID-19 travel restrictions on non-U.S. travelers from Brazil, Ireland, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and 26 other European countries. On Sunday, Reuters reported that South Africa would be added to the list of restricted countries because of concerns over a new variant of COVID-19 that has appeared in that country.

The new executive orders reverse a Jan. 18 decision by former President Trump to lift the restrictions on Brazil and Europe. It also appears to reverse a position previously held by Biden on Trump's travel restrictions.

In February 2020, when Trump introduced bans on travel from China and six African countries as a safety measure against the spread of coronavirus, then-candidate Biden criticized the policy as "xenophobia" and "fear-mongering."

During Monday's White House press briefing, Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked the president's press secretary, Jen Psaki, about the travel ban and Biden's apparent change of position.

"When President Trump was imposing travel restrictions in March, specifically on China, then-candidate Biden called it 'xenophobic' and 'fear-mongering.' Now President Biden is putting travel restrictions on people coming in from other countries, what word do we use to describe that?" Doocy asked.

"I don't think that's quite a fair articulation," Psaki dodged. Redirecting the question, she said that Biden felt Trump's ban on travel from some foreign countries with majority-Muslim populations that were previously designated by the Obama administration as "areas of concern" for terrorism was "xenophobic."

"The president has been clear that he felt the Muslim Ban was xenophobic. He overturned the Muslim ban. He also though has supported ... travel restrictions in order to keep the American people safe to ensure that we are getting the pandemic under control. That's been part of his policy," Psaki said. "But he was critical of the former president for having a policy that was not more comprehensive than travel restrictions and he conveyed at the time and more recently the importance of having a multi-faceted approach."

Psaki of course failed to address Doocy's question, which was specifically about Biden's previous response to Trump's travel restrictions on China. Doocy did not ask about the so-called "Muslim ban."

Members of the Biden administration weren't the only ones to change their tune on coronavirus travel bans. The mainstream media, as documented by Hot Air's Jazz Shaw, is covering the two presidents very differently.

A headline from NBC News, for example, stated: "Biden to reinstate Covid travel restrictions Trump rescinded, impose new ban on South Africa."

Last February when Trump imposed his travel restrictions, NBC News covered the story with the headline: "Civil rights groups condemn Trump's travel-ban expansion to six African countries." The civil rights groups quoted in the article called the travel restrictions "racist and unconstitutional."

Other headlines from February collected by Shaw include:

New York Times, February 4, 2020. "Opinion | The Racism at the Heart of Trump's 'Travel Ban."

Boston Globe, February 17, 2020. "Trump's xenophobic travel ban punishes Americans above all."

Washington Post, February 5, 2020. "Trump's expanded travel ban is a blow to America's already tarnished global image."

CNN, February 5, 2020. "Trump's latest travel ban is an attack on Africans."

USA Today, February 26, 2020. "Trump's xenophobia led to his expanded travel ban"

So far, no mainstream news outlet has suggested that Biden's travel restrictions have anything to do with race.

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