On Friday, Associated Press reporter Alexandra Jaffe confronted White House press secretary Jen Psaki about stunning events last week, in which multiple Biden administration officials accused journalists of being in the pocket of Russian leader Vladimir Putin and ISIS.
In both instances, journalists asked the Biden administration for evidence of claims they were making, and in both instances, administration spokesmen became visibly upset, flustered, and accused the journalist asking questions of playing for the other team.
The exchange took place during the White House’s Friday press briefing.
On Thursday, Psaki herself accused a reporter of believing ISIS over the Biden administration, when the administration had claimed a successful military operation to kill the latest leader of ISIS.
After more information about civilian casualties came to light, NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe asked for evidence that the ISIS leader blew himself up: “Jen, will there be any, like, evidence or, like, release to support the idea ― I mean, I know the U.S. has put out its statement that, you know, [ISIS] detonated the bomb themselves. But will the U.S. provide any evidence?”
The Political Insider noted:
Psaki was taken aback by the question, contesting that anybody could be “skeptical of the U.S. military’s assessment when they went and took out … the leader of ISIS.”
Rascoe pressed by saying yes, some people might not buy the story.
“That they are not providing accurate information,” continued Psaki, “and ISIS is providing accurate information?”
State Department spokesman Ned Price made similar accusations to Associated Press reporter Matt Lee when the latter asked for any evidence of the Biden administration’s claim that Russia was preparing to conduct a false flag operation in order to invade Ukraine.
Price, after claiming that he himself making the accusation was “evidence,” began to accuse Lee of believing Russia.
Jaffe said to Psaki of the incidents, “So, yesterday you and the State Department’s spokesman Ned Price both took issue with reporters asking for evidence of your statements with respect to the Syria strike and the Russian false flag operation.”
“Do you really believe that journalists are repeating Russian and Islamic state propaganda in pursuing those questions?” Jaffe asked. “First of all, and second of all, will you be offering evidence of your claims with respect to what happened in Syria when they become available?”
Based on the response, it appears Psaki realized how bad the accusations were, and went into damage control.
Psaki replied, “Absolutely, and let me just start by saying that we welcome tough questions and good faith scrutiny. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have come out here almost 180 times and engaged with all of you and your tough questions and good faith scrutiny.”
“As I noted in a response to a questions from your colleague yesterday, which wasn’t in all the context of what was put out there, we are less than 48 hours from the end of the mission,” Psaki added.
She continued, “So the Department of Defense is still conducting after action assessments. And that’s a natural part of the process that occurs.”
“But of course, we respect and value the role of the press,” the press secretary said. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be out here with all of you everyday and welcome the scrutiny, welcome the tough questioning and as I said yesterday, of course, we will do everything we can to provide as many details as possible.”
“But, I think it’s important as people are trying to understand this to note that it is different in having operators on the ground than an airstrike where it is a different assessment after action,” Psaki said.
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