President Joe Biden, who is twice vaccinated and twice boosted, tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday morning and immediately began isolating himself within the White House residence per Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
During the press briefing about that development later that day, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was challenged by a reporter over how this administration has displayed “the least transparency of any White House in 50 years” with regard to the president’s health, the Daily Caller reported.
That remark, to which Jean-Pierre appeared to take offense and disputed, came in relation to the fact that the president’s physician was not present to answer questions with specificity and because of cagey or vague responses that Jean-Pierre and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha had given to earlier questions.
You’ll get a basic update and nothing more
Jean-Pierre had issued a statement Thursday morning to announce that President Biden had tested positive for the coronavirus and would isolate in the White House until he tested negative, per White House protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines.
The White House also shared a letter from White House Physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor, which revealed that Biden suffered mild symptoms that included a runny nose, fatigue, and a dry cough, and that he would take a course of the new Paxlovid anti-viral treatment.
Then came the hour-long press briefing with Jean-Pierre and Dr. Jha, during which both officials repeatedly danced around direct questions about the president’s current health status, the timeline of his diagnosis, his future plans, and the protocols in place, among other relevant things.
Jean-Pierre and Jha also repeatedly retread old ground in response to direct questions by simply reiterating the limited information that had already been shared by the initial White House statement and letter from Dr. O’Connor.
“The least transparency of any White House in 50 years on a presidential illness”
Near the end of the briefing, National Journal correspondent George Condon, according to the Daily Caller, said, “When will Dr. O’Connor come up? Because to just put out a statement and shield him from questions would be the least transparency of any White House in 50 years on a presidential illness.”
“Wow, I wholeheartedly disagree on your last statement. Wholeheartedly disagree on your last statement,” Jean-Pierre replied. “So, we are doing this very differently — very differently than, I would argue, than the last administration. And I am happy to have that conversation with you.”
She then, as before, once more rehashed the basic information provided by the statement and letter before taking one final question before ending the briefing.
Condon’s statement had merit, though, as at least two other reporters had also called out Jean-Pierre over O’Connor’s absence from the briefing, with one asking bluntly, “Could we get the president’s physician here so we can not play the game of telephone?” while another openly lamented that neither Jean-Pierre nor Jha could answer specific questions about treatments that only the physician would have answers for.
Jean-Pierre, of course, also rebuffed those critiques and, at one point, went on at length, seemingly unsolicited, about just how “transparent” the White House has been, which likely prompted the reporter’s sharp — and accurate — quip about this current White House actually acting with the “least transparency” of any of its modern-era predecessors.