FNC’s Fisher Grills Psaki: If Forced to Pick, Would Biden WH Pick Unions Over Students?

Thursday’s White House Press Briefing featured more of the same with deflections from Press Secretary Jen Psaki as she downplayed the view of CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky that teacher vaccinations shouldn’t be a prerequisite to school reopenings and refused to state whether, if forced to pick a side, the administration would side with students over teachers unions.

A day after pressing Psaki on whether she would apologize for mocking the Space Force, the Fox News Channel’s Kristin Fisher brought up Walensky’s comments and how Psaki has maintained the administration will wait for “official guidance” from the CDC itself, but wondered “why isn’t what the director of the CDC says…enough.”

 

 

Psaki reiterated the CDC hasn’t “issued their final guidance, and we, of course, wait for that process to complete and see its way through,” but then downplayed Walensky’s expertise because she had done so “in her personal capacity.”

In other words, the administration that promised to trust scientists has decided that they won’t trust them because someone got in the way of a beloved special interest group.

Fisher offered the logical follow-up: “And so if this final guidance comes out and it says it is fine for schools to reopen without vaccinating teachers, can you say right now that’s what President Biden will support?”

Psaki wouldn’t budge besides offering standard fare that teachers should still be vaccinated and “there are a number of other mitigation steps that are important to take,” which can only happen with “funding” in the $1.9 trillion COVID package.

This led to Fisher’s final question, which bluntly asked Psaki whether the administration would pick students over the teachers unions if they faced “a binary choice.”

Predictably, Psaki wasn’t happy that Fisher put her in that position and, just as she did when called out on January 28 by the Associated Press’s Alexandra Jaffe, she refused to answer (click “expand”):

FISHER: Okay, one more question on this point. Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that it’s time for President Biden to stand up and say that the kids are the most important thing and stand up to the teachers’ unions. If it comes down to a binary choice, and there is no indication that, you know, the teachers’ union in Chicago or San Francisco are willing to budge at this point, if it comes down to a binary decision, who would win, the students or the teachers? 

PSAKI: I think that it’s a little bit unfair how you posed that question, but President Biden wants schools to be open, teachers want schools to be open, families want schools to be open, but we want to do it safely. And I’m not sure that any parent in this country would disagree with wanting their children to go to school in a safe environment, where there’s ventilation, where proper precautions are taken, whether it’s masks or social distancing, and that’s his priority. But there should be no confusion. The President of the United States wants schools to open. He wants them to stay open. And that is key too. He doesn’t want them open for a month. That’s disruptive for teachers, for students, for families, so he wants the proper steps to be taken so they can reopen and stay — stay open.

Earlier during the briefing when National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made a guest appearance, there was one kooky question when a reporter suggested America didn’t have room to stand on regarding the military coup in Myanmar given former President Trump’s Stop the Steal campaign:

Just picking up on Peter’s question on speaking from a position of strength, I want to talk about sanctions on Myanmar. Does the fact that we have Republican lawmakers who support the claim that the election was stolen, some potentially having ties to extremist groups who stormed the Capitol, does it make the job of the administration’s foreign policy team more difficult to punish countries like Myanmar on the grounds of violations of democracy and rule of law?

To see the relevant briefing transcript from February 4, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
February 4, 2021
11:52 p.m. Eastern

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER [TO JAKE SULLIVAN]: Just picking up on Peter’s question on speaking from a position of strength, I want to talk about sanctions on Myanmar. Does the fact that we have Republican lawmakers who support the claim that the election was stolen, some potentially having ties to extremist groups who stormed the Capitol, does it make the job of the administration’s foreign policy team more difficult to punish countries like Myanmar on the grounds of violations of democracy and rule of law?

(….)

12:15 p.m. Eastern

KRISTIN FISHER: Yesterday, the head of the CDC, as you know, said it was safe to reopen schools without vaccinating teachers. You said that the White House was waiting for official guidance before making a final determination. Why isn’t what the director of the CDC says — why isn’t that enough? 

JEN PSAKI: Well, first, the director of the CDC also said they haven’t issued their final guidance, and we, of course, wait for that process to complete and see its way through. As she would say as well, I believe she did an interview last night where she spoke to this issue again,  the President, let me be crystal clear, wants schools to open, he wants them to stay open, and that is — and he wants to do that safely. And he wants health and medical experts to be the guides for how we should do exactly that. So we’re just not — the — Dr. Walensky spoke to this in her personal capacity. Obviously, she’s the head of the CDC, but we’re going to wait for the final guidance to come out so we can use that as a guide for schools around the country. 

FISHER: And so if this final guidance comes out and it says it is fine for schools to reopen without vaccinating teachers, can you say right now that’s what President Biden will support? 

PSAKI: Well, I’m happy — I hope you come back whenever the guidance comes out. The President has prioritized, believes it should be a priority for teachers to be vaccinated. He also, though, believes that even with vaccinations for teachers or for any American that there are a number of other mitigation steps that are important to take. Masks — and I’m sure this will be in the guidance when it comes out, or they’ll speak to it, I should say. Mask — the wearing of masks, social distancing, ventilation. These are all factors that are important for Americans and also for the reopening of schools. That’s one of the reasons that we need funding in order to be able to effectively ensure that public schools across the country are able to do that. 

FISHER: Okay, one more question on this point. Michael Bloomberg said yesterday that it’s time for President Biden to stand up and say that the kids are the most important thing and stand up to the teachers’ unions. If it comes down to a binary choice, and there is no indication that, you know, the teachers’ union in Chicago or San Francisco are willing to budge at this point, if it comes down to a binary decision, who would win, the students or the teachers? 

PSAKI: I think that it’s a little bit unfair how you posed that question, but President Biden wants schools to be open, teachers want schools to be open, families want schools to be open, but we want to do it safely. And I’m not sure that any parent in this country would disagree with wanting their children to go to school in a safe environment, where there’s ventilation, where proper precautions are taken, whether it’s masks or social distancing, and that’s his priority. But there should be no confusion. The President of the United States wants schools to open. He wants them to stay open. And that is key too. He doesn’t want them open for a month. That’s disruptive for teachers, for students, for families, so he wants the proper steps to be taken so they can reopen and stay — stay open.

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