Psaki Show Is Back: Fisher Asks Press Secretary If Teacher’s Union Runs the CDC

The White House press briefing returned on Tuesday following a week-long hiatus and, with plenty to talk about, Fox News’s Kristin Fisher burst out of the gate and asked Press Secretary Jen Psaki whether teachers unions hold sway over CDC recommendations for school reopenings as well as what the White House thinks Americans should be allowed to do once vaccinated.

 

 

In the first briefing since Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress, Fisher cut right to the chase as the fifth reporter called on, asking whether the CDC or the teachers unions are in charge of health policy for schools:

I just wanted to give you a chance to respond to the accusations that the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s largest — second largest teacher’s union influenced the CDC guidelines on reopening schools. You had Republican Senator Tom Cotton saying that this is evidence of “a politicized public health agency…answering at the beck and call of the teacher’s union.” So how does the White House respond?

Psaki replied that it’s “false” to say a key Biden interest group would be steamrolling the CDC, adding that the agency has a “long-standing best practice…to engage with organizations and groups that are going to be impacted by guidance and recommendations.”

She added that the CDC doesn’t “tak[e] everything they want, or even a percentage of what they want, but it’s important to understand the implementation components” so health officials can offer policies that are seen as “feasible.”

Before a back-and-forth about whether more Afghans would be admitted into the U.S. given September’s full withdrawal of U.S. troops, Fisher inquired about what the administration would define as a return to “normal” for Americans this summer.

Though there hadn’t been an episode of the Psaki show in a week, it was the same old, same old with Psaki providing next to nothing (click “expand”):  

FISHER: The President reiterated last week that July 4th is the target date for returning American life to something closer to normal. Can you just define what exactly closer to normal is? What does that look like for the average American?

PSAKI: Well, first the President we’ll have more about his updated goals we have as an administration by that July timeline, that he’ll talk about later this afternoon. You know, what he’s talked about is if you’re giving incentives for people to be vaccinated, to understand what the benefits are, what the benefits are of getting a shot or two shots and one of the things he’s talked about for some time, since his prime-time address before the joint address was people being able to gather in their backyard and have a barbecue and obviously, we follow the advice and guidelines of our health and medical experts. But if we increase the number of people who are vaccinated around the country and communities, that will enable people to do more things that they’re used to. So the guidance last week of course said that if you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask outside as long as you’re not in a crowd. It also said if you’re vaccinated, you can go a lot of places if you’re wearing a mask and you can feel safe and comfortable, but he’ll have more to say later this afternoon about the July timeline.

Teachers unions would come up later in the Q&A when Yahoo’s Brittany Shepherd wondered whether the administration would “support” their pleas to require students to have received a coronavirus vaccine if they’re within the eligible age range (which could soon be lowered from 16 to 12 years old in relation to Pfizer’s vaccine).

Once again, Psaki refused to admit to the role of the teachers unions in reopenings (or a lack thereof), insisting it’d be left up to “health and medical experts” as well as the Department of Education.

A few reporters later, the Washington Blade’s Chris Johnson lobbed a softball at Psaki to define what Biden meant when he said that he had the “back” of transgender youth (click “expand”):

JOHNSON: My second inquiry is on the President’s speech to Congress last week. He told transgender youth he has their backs and the President made these remarks in the context of states enacting laws against transgender youth, including a measure the Tennessee governor signed just today requiring parental notification on LGBTQ — LGBTQ inclusive school curriculum. The President’s inclusion of transgender people in his speech to Congress is significant, in and of itself, but what will the President having their backs look like going forward?

PSAKI: Well, certainly the President has put in place — has signed executive orders. He’s also used the power of the bully pulpit and his presidency to convey that transgender rights are human rights and that is his belief and the view of his administration and how he expects policies to be implemented. That includes ensuring that transgender youth have the opportunity to play sports and to be treated equally in states across the country. So he will look to members of his administration to implement what his view is and he — what his value is as President.

JOHNSON: Would you rule out legal action against these laws going forward as part of that?

PSAKI: I will leave you — that to the Department of Justice.

Rewind to the start of the briefing and it didn’t exactly start on a strong note for Psaki as she lied about former President Trump being the cause of the surge of illegal immigrants at the U.S/Mexico border.

Psaki’s opening remarks included a portion about the border in which she bragged that “[a]fter four years of an immigration system rooted in destructive and chaotic policies, President Biden is taking the challenge head-on and is building a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system,” but came into office having “to address the influx of migrants at the border, something that began during and was exacerbated by the Trump administration.”

So Trump “exacerbated” the surge at the border? If Politifact was an actual fact-checking site, it would be all over this pants-on-fire nonsense and include example after example of migrants stating that Biden’s open borders policy was a big reason for their decision to move north.

But since Politifact has shown itself to be an extension of the White House Press Office, we won’t hold our breaths.

To see the relevant transcript from May 4’s briefing, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing
May 4, 2021
12:57 p.m. Eastern

JEN PSAKI: I wanted to provide a brief update on the situation at our Southern border. After four years of an immigration system rooted in destructive and chaotic policies, President Biden is taking the challenge head-on and is building a fair, orderly, and humane immigration system. That’s our objective. After coming into office, our administration immediately jumped into action to address the influx of migrants at the border, something that began during and was exacerbated by the Trump administration. And wanted to provide a couple of data — pieces of data you may have seen, but they’ve come out since the last time we had a briefing in here. At the end of March, there were more than 5,000 children in Customs and Border Protection — Patrol stations. Today, that number is approximately 600. The amount of time children spend in CBP facilities is down by 75 percent, from 131 hours at the end of March to under 30 hours now. And just yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will begin the process of reuniting a number of families who were separated by the policies of the previous administration. Clearly we’re not done. There’s a lot of work ahead. Migration is a dynamic and evolving challenge, but the President has a plan and we’re working on implementing it.

(….)

1:15 p.m. Eastern

KRISTIN FISHER: I just wanted to give you a chance to respond to the accusations that the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s largest — second largest teacher’s union influenced the CDC guidelines on reopening schools. You had Republican Senator Tom Cotton saying that this is evidence of “a politicized public health agency…answering at the beck and call of the teacher’s union.” So how does the White House respond?

PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, that’s false. Let’s take a step back and talk about how the CDC works. The CDC, it’s actually long-standing best practice for the CDC to engage with organizations and groups that are going to be impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency. It doesn’t mean they are taking everything they want, or even a percentage of what they want, but it’s important to understand the implementation components. They do so to ensure that recommendations are feasible and that they adequately address the safety and well-being of the individuals the guidance is aimed to protect. So the CDC engaged with around 50 stakeholders that are on the front lines in this pandemic and have requisite perspective for the guidance.

FISHER: The President reiterated last week that July 4th is the target date for returning American life to something closer to normal. Can you just define what exactly closer to normal is? What does that look like for the average American?

PSAKI: Well, first the President we’ll have more about his updated goals we have as an administration by that July timeline, that he’ll talk about later this afternoon. You know, what he’s talked about is if you’re giving incentives for people to be vaccinated, to understand what the benefits are, what the benefits are of getting a shot or two shots and one of the things he’s talked about for some time, since his prime-time address before the joint address was people being able to gather in their backyard and have a barbecue and obviously, we follow the advice and guidelines of our health and medical experts. But if we increase the number of people who are vaccinated around the country and communities, that will enable people to do more things that they’re used to. So the guidance last week of course said that if you’re vaccinated, you don’t have to wear a mask outside as long as you’re not in a crowd. It also said if you’re vaccinated, you can go a lot of places if you’re wearing a mask and you can feel safe and comfortable, but he’ll have more to say later this afternoon about the July timeline.

FISHER: Okay. And one more question —

PSAKI: Sure.

FISHER: — about, since we’ve been talking a lot about the refugee camp, something that’s not entirely similar, but certainly related, the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program is facing this backlog of thousands and thousands of applicants And of course, time is running out, with the withdrawal beginning over the weekend. So can you just kind of summarize what exactly is the plan to address this backlog before all U.S. troops withdrawal?

PSAKI: You know, Kristen, it’s a great question. It’s an important program. The President talked about of course, has talked about in the past and he is committed to. I would say the state department would oversee the process for those visas. So I would point you to them.

FISHER: But is there a plan or is the plan still being drafted?

PSAKI: I don’t have an update on the plan. I will just convey to you that ensuring that people who have been partners to the United States, who have played such a vital role, who are eligible can apply. And that we do — and that our embassy of course is remaining there and a presence there as well, but they would be the right agency to talk about processing and timeline and what that looks like.

FISHER: Is there any chance, like, you guys might surge volunteers or staff to the embassy in Kabul to — to help?

PSAKI: It’s a great question. But I would, again, point to the State Department because the personnel would come from there.

(….)

1:30 p.m. Eastern

BRITTANY SHEPHERD: Does the President and the White House Department of Education believe that public schools should require that students get vaccinated once folks under 16 are available to get vaccinated, whether it’s Pfizer, Moderna, what have you, in the next couple of months?

PSAKI: I — I don’t — it’s not my understanding that we’re putting in new requirements here from the federal government. I would expect the Department of Education will work with local schools and school districts on implementation and how to keep students and — and — and teachers safe.

SHEPHERD: Would the White House come out in support of teachers unions who are already pretty public about the fact that they would want students under 16 to get vaccinated if they can vaccinated and are eligible to get vaccinated?

PSAKI: I don’t have any anticipation of requirements from the federal government at this point in time, but obviously, we’ll look to our health and medical experts on any additional guidance to provide.

(….)

1:37 p.m. Eastern

CHRIS JOHNSON: My second inquiry is on the President’s speech to Congress last week. He told transgender youth he has their backs and the President made these remarks in the context of states enacting laws against transgender youth, including a measure the Tennessee governor signed just today requiring parental notification on LGBTQ — LGBTQ inclusive school curriculum. The President’s inclusion of transgender people in his speech to Congress is significant, in and of itself, but what will the President having their backs look like going forward?

PSAKI: Well, certainly the President has put in place — has signed executive orders. He’s also used the power of the bully pulpit and his presidency to convey that transgender rights are human rights and that is his belief and the view of his administration and how he expects policies to be implemented. That includes ensuring that transgender youth have the opportunity to play sports and to be treated equally in states across the country. So he will look to members of his administration to implement what his view is and he — what his value is as President.

JOHNSON: Would you rule out legal action against these laws going forward as part of that?

PSAKI: I will leave you — that to the Department of Justice.

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