Six months after White House press secretary Jen Psaki used her debut news conference to trumpet her commitment to bring “truth and transparency back to the briefing room,” she stonewalled media representatives on Friday as they sought to know the extent of COVID-19 in the Biden White House.
The coronavirus crept into the White House this month after Texas Democrats, in what one doctor has called a “super-spreader” event, arrived in Washington after fleeing their state rather than vote on an election integrity bill. Since their arrival, at least six Texas Democrats have been diagnosed with the virus.
A meeting of worshipful D.C. Democrats to praise the Texas legislators for holding up legislation they didn’t like might have had the effect of spreading the virus to at least one member of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s entourage.
At least one White House aide was infected, according to media reports.
That led to a reporter asking Psaki at Friday’s media briefing for the percentage of White House employees who are vaccinated, as Psaki stressed the importance of vaccinations.
“I’m not going to provide that. I will see if there is more information to provide,” she said.
In a follow-up question, she was asked, “this administration has long claimed that you’re trying to be the most transparent in history. If that’s the case, why won’t you just release the number of breakthrough cases that you’ve had of vaccinated staffers?”
Psaki danced around the question.
“Well, I think, first, we’re in a very different place than we were six to seven months ago as it relates to the virus. And as many medical experts have said — inside and outside of the government — those who are vaccinated are protected from serious illness, most are asymptomatic — if they are individuals who are vaccinated who get the virus. And, you know, we are in a different place in terms of the impact of individuals who may have, as you said, breakthrough cases,” she said.
A reporter challenges @PressSec on not releasing the number of breakthrough covid cases among WH staffers:
REPORTER: "Why not just provide the number are you trying to hide something?"@PressSec: "Why do you need to have that information?"
REPORTER: "Transparency…" pic.twitter.com/POVmqkzEFr
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) July 23, 2021
“But why not just provide the number?” Psaki was asked. “Are you trying to hide something?”
Psaki shot back: “No, but … Why do you need to have that information?”
She was then reminded, “It’s a case of transparency, in the interest of the public, knowing — having a better understanding of how breakthrough cases work here in the White House.”
Psaki responded with a discourse on how the CDC responds to breakthrough cases, without mentioning the White House at all.
On Tuesday, Psaki admitted there had been more than one case at the White House.
“I will say that we, according to an agreement we made during the transition to be transparent and make information available, we committed that we would release information proactively if it is commissioned officers. We continue to abide by that commitment,” she said then, according to a transcript of the briefing.
When asked to provide a number, she said she could not do so.
“I think there’s hundreds, thousands of people who work in the federal government, as you all know — and we had committed, during the transition, that if it was a commissioned officer, who are the highest-level ranking people in the White House and in the admin- — in this building here, that we would make that information publicly available. We stand by that commitment,” she said.
“So, if it’s anyone below that, you don’t feel the need to let people know?” she was asked.
“Well, again, that’s the commitment we made,” Psaki said.