With the border crisis only continuing to grow, Friday’s White House press briefing featured multiple reporters pressuring Press Secretary Jen Psaki for answers on detention facilities, the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border, and whether the Biden administration has decided if it’ll allow an unlimited number of people to come across the U.S/Mexico border.
Fox News White House correspondent Kristin Fisher led the way, calmly but aggressively hammering at Psaki for answers on basic statistics about the crisis and, on a different topic, the nursing home and sexual harassment scandals facing White House ally and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY).
Fisher started with short, simple questions, wanting to know whether there’s been “any discussions…about reversing the policy of allowing all unaccompanied children into the United States” and whether they’ve decided “to take in and safely and humanely find a home for an unlimited number of unaccompanied children.”
Psaki replied with a “no” to the first and refused to answer the second one.
Instead, Psaki demanded Fisher and those listening to “take a step back as human beings and as mothers, of which I am one” and think about how “[t]hese kids are coming, they are fleeing prosecution, they are fleeing difficult circumstances in their home country,” so it’s incumbent upon the U.S. to “ensur[e] they are treated safely, they are not trafficked, they are not sent back on an unsafe journey.”
Fisher then reminded Psaki that she’s both a mother and “feel[s] for all of these children,” but also made clear that facts are missing with the administration refusing to public state the number of crossings a day. Fisher even asked Psaki if she could provide a number, but, as usual, she declined (click “expand”):
FISHER: [T]he fact remains you have DHS is projecting 100,000 unaccompanied minors by May, and, you know, that brings me to another question, A lot of these numbers and data are all coming from leaked documents from DHS, from HHS.
FISHER: Why doesn’t the White House just release these numbers? I mean, don’t the American people deserve to get the data straight from you and straight from the WH?
PSAKI: Data projected numbers and internal documents for policy discussions?
FISHER: Data about how many unaccompanied children and migrants are crossing the border on a daily basis. I understand, eventually, it is made public, but why not now? Why do we have to learn from leaked documents?
PSAKI: It is. It is made public by the Department of Homeland Security and the officials who oversee the entire process. It is made public.
PSAKI: We don’t as a policy — we don’t as a policy make public, or confirm private decks and policy documents as no administration would.
FISHER: I understand. So, can you confirm how many illegal border crossings there are on average every day right now?
PSAKI: I would send you to the Department of Homeland Security and CBP who, of course, would be overseeing that process.
Fisher used her final question in round one to inquire about whether the White House would accept the invitation from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for a meeting about the issue, but Psaki only committed to meeting with those who want to help depart from “the dismantled and inhumane immigration approach of the last administration.”
Fast-forward 20 minutes and Fisher again tried to move Psaki off of her gutless refusal to take a stand against Cuomo.
On the nursing home scandals, Fisher brought up the new reporting from “The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times that aides to Governor Cuomo had altered the report on nursing home deaths to hide a higher death toll,” but Psaki only said they were “troubling” stories and that the White House continues to “support any outside investigation.”
And on the three women who’ve accused the former liberal media darling of sexual harassment, Psaki said she wasn’t “aware” if Biden or Vice President Harris had watched CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell’s home run interview with accuser Charlotte Bennett on account of the fact that “they obviously both have a full schedule.”
Psaki tried to shift to restating past briefing statements, but Fisher wasn’t having it (click “expand”):
FISHER: Well, so, I guess my question is — in 2017 when then-Senator Kamala Harris was calling on Senator Al Franken to resign for similar issues, she tweeted and I quote: “Sexual harassment and conduct should not be allowed by anyone and should not occur anywhere.” So, you know, what does it say to women like Charlotte Bennett when the Vice President of the United States will comment about that but won’t say the same thing about these allegations against Governor Cuomo?
PSAKI: Well, I think the Vice President’s views that all women should be treated with respect, their voices should be heard, they should tell their story. There’s an independent investigation that is happening now being overseen by the New York attorney general and she certainly supports that.
FISHER: Why won’t she say that?
PSAKI: Hopefully all the individuals who have come out should — should see that as her point of view and one that I am happy to reiterate on her behalf.
FISHER: But, so, why won’t she say that?
PSAKI: Again, I think I’m — I’m speaking on her behalf. That is the White House. That’s the benefit of doing this briefing every day.
Fortunately, it wasn’t just Fisher who brought the heat. The Associated Press’s Alexandra Jaffe led off the questions by twice pressing Psaki on the fact that Biden has been in office for 45 days but “has yet to hold a presser” even though every president in recent history had already done so.
Psaki unsurprisingly demurred and implied that reporters should accept pool sprays as sufficient due to the fact that Biden has to address economic and health crises due to the coronavirus pandemic with a possible presser coming before the end of the month.
And on immigration, CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and CBS’s Weijia Jiang led into Fisher’s questions with some of their own.
Diamond, however, framed one of his questions in a more sympathetic light and fretted whether “some of [Biden’s] rhetoric and some of his policies may have, as well intentioned as they may have been, inadvertently contributed to the rise in migrants that we’re seeing at the border, particularly unaccompanied children.”
Jiang followed up by nothing “a lot of Americans are saying that, you know, the surges are happening under President Biden’s watch after he reversed some previous policies” and inquired about whether the White House will accept “any responsibility for what’s happening.”
If you were hoping Psaki was going to provide an answer, you would have been sorely mistaken.
To see the relevant transcript from the March 5 briefing, click “expand.”