‘It’s on Fox Right Now!’; Doocy, Psaki Do Battle Over Ailing Biden, China

An ill President Biden served as a focus of Friday’s White House press briefing, so it was natural that Fox’s Peter Doocy was in the middle of it in questioning Press Secretary Jen Psaki on that as well as the Build Back Better (BBB) Act and China’s refusal to allow for a complete investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. 

Similarly, Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann drilled home the plight of Chinese Uighurs and Voice of America’s Patsy Widakuswara brought up new Chinese provocations against Taiwan. Others continued to push Covid mandates, while one extolled an Orwellian move from Germany.

Doocy was interested in BBB, specifically whether or not there were “any thought…to maybe waiting for Build Back Better until a month that you don’t have this big miss in the jobs report?”

Psaki quipped there were “a lot of things gathered into that question,” but she rejected the premise by returning to past White House talking points dismissing the CBO.

Doocy moved on to Covid, referring to a conversation two weeks ago with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “did not press him to help with the Covid origins investigation because you said that Xi just understands he’s supposed to be transparent.”

Simply wanting an update, Doocy was met with an incredulous Psaki hit back that she doesn’t “believe that’s exactly what I said” and, after answering, things took a sudden turn as she wanted to go back to crime as Doocy had asked about it on Thursday (click “expand”):

PSAKI: What I meant to say is that we’ve repeatedly asked for this. We will continue to and we’ll continue to do that at a range of levels. Unfortunately, I do not have any information on whether or not the Chinese are willing to provide more data. Let me give you one last update since yesterday you asked for information about crime. I do have more details. Um — 

DOOCY: What about crime? My question was about Xi. It wasn’t about —

PSAKI: Well, you asked me a question about crime yesterday —

DOOCY: Okay.

PSAKI: — so, I was going to give you a little — 

DOOCY: Okay.

PSAKI: — a little extra information. Peter, I have followed-up. 

DOOCY: Thank you.

PSAKI: So I would note what I — what I should have added yesterday, but I learned afterwards is that the Justice Department, the FBI, and the federal law enforcement have been in touch — in contact with jurisdictions where we have seen this high level of retail theft. So, for example, in Los Angeles, we — we’ve seen a rash of robberies. An FBI task force that includes several jurisdictions is led by LAPD. The FBI will provide assistance. I’d also note that, on top of that, the Department of Justice announced last week that San Francisco — were a number of high profile retail thefts have happened — will get money to hire 50 more police officers through the COPS program that the President has championed. It was one of the nearly $150 million nationwide in similar grants. Here are some more updates.

Doocy thanked Psaki and said he would “include that in our coverage,” but things got even more amusing when Doocy broke the fourth wall:

PSAKI: It’s a great show and I can’t wait to see it on Fox.

DOOCY: I believe it’s currently on Fox. [POINTS AT THE CAMERA]

PSAKI – I’m betting it.

Following that detour, he ended with two questions about Biden’s cold (which he himself asked Biden about) and what seems to have been a double standard with Biden continuing to work even though “a lot of people in the workforce are encouraged not to go to work if they are exhibiting those symptoms, even if they are played vaccinated.”

Widakuswara and Wegmann eventually had their turns with the former wanting the administration’s thoughts on “an alleged Chinese submarine in the Taiwan Strait” and if they’re “preparing for any kind of potential increased Chinese provocations…in case Beijing decided to express their frustration ahead of the democracy summit.”

As we’ve come to expect, Psaki ducked the question, saying they’ve “always raised concerns about provocations or escalatory behavior,” but she would have to find out more.

Wegmann next brought up Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act. Reporting from The Washington Post Information about administrative efforts to subvert it. 

Predictably, Psaki spun the interactions with Congress as not meddling or discouraging it in “any way, shape, or form” (click “expand”):

WEGMANN – You have always been very clear about what the government’s position is on Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act. This has been true even back to September. Multiple times you have stated that the president doesn’t hold a position. The Washington Post reports that in October the deputy secretary was telling legislators to slow down the bill. The administration seems to be on the same page. Why does the White House say that the president remains neutral while the deputy secretary of State is telling lawmakers in private that they need to slow down the bill? 

PSAKI : We are not neutral. We share Congress’ concern over forced labor in Xinjiang. In fact, we have taken a variety of concrete steps on our own. These include visa restrictions, global Magnitsky and other financial sanctions. Export controls and import restrictions. The release of a business advisory and mobilizing the G-7 for actions. We have strong concerns — serious concerns and we are absolutely not lobbying in any way against the passage of this bill. The members of Congress are engaged in negotiations and discussions. Many times, Congress receives technical advice from the executive branch to ensure that legislation is effective and can be implemented by their agencies. We support these conversations and we have advocated for greater accountability. 

WEGMANN: Your presentation outlined a few executive actions that the President took and how the world has rallied behind him. This issue was discussed at length by the G-7. Do you think he wants Congress to do more? I mean, is he — he’s leading on the world stage. What role does it play in Congress to actually get something into the law?

PSAKI: There’s negotiations he fully supports between members of Congress, and he supports the objective of doing more here and, as is evidenced by the fact that we have done a great deal. Technical assistance is offered by us. This bill is not being opposed by us in any form, shape or manner. That’s a normal part of the process in order to make sure we — legislation can be effective and implementable. That’s where the status of it is at this point in time.

Talk about a laser-focused focus. The Wall Street Journal’s Sabrina Siddiqui suggested the administration have major cities reinstitute mask mandates while encouraging more to follow what some have done in having “proof of vaccination to access indoor dining, bars, and other non essential businesses.”

Bob Costantini (longtime radio reporter) asked about Germany. “Germany has decided that unvaccinated people should not be allowed to go in public places” “[t]hat may be a great way to incentivize people to be vaccinated” even though it’s likely “that would not fly in this country.”

Click here to see the transcript of the briefing on December 3.