WH spox Jean-Pierre roasted online for galling claim that Biden, Dems fought to reopen schools during pandemic

 May 5, 2023

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre appeared to rewrite history on Wednesday by asserting that it had always been a top "priority" for President Joe Biden, and Democrats more broadly, to swiftly reopen public schools that were shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fox News reported.

That rather dubious claim has been sharply criticized by many Republicans and independents who still recall how Democrats, in conjunction with allied teachers unions, fought vigorously throughout 2020 and much of 2021 to keep schools closed to in-person learning.

Those same Democrats and allied teachers unions also routinely accused Republican-led states of deliberately endangering students and teachers alike by reopening for in-person learning in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021.

Reopening schools a top "priority" for Biden, Jean-Pierre claimed

During Wednesday's press briefing, a reporter referenced studies that showed how student test scores and proficiency measures were at historically low levels and asked, "What can the administration do to help kids catch up, who’ve lost so much during the pandemic?"

"Look, as you just said, kids have lost so much in the pandemic," Jean-Pierre replied. "This is why, when the President walked in, he made that -- he made a priority to open schools."

"One of the things that was important to do to make sure that our kids, who have lost so much, were able to go back in person to school, if they choose, have the resources that they needed, that -- to really succeed and move forward in their education," she continued. "And we saw that, unfortunately, the pandemic had a unfortunate effect on our young -- on our young people, on our kids."

"And so this is, again, something that the President was committed to," the press secretary stated. "That’s why he fought so hard to get the American Rescue Plan done. That’s why -- which allowed him to open up schools, open up small businesses, to get shots in arms, so that we can deal with this pandemic."

Jean-Pierre went on to assert that "we're in a different place" now with respect to COVID-19 "because of what this President has done" even as she acknowledged that there was "more work to do" and that low proficiency and test scores had already been an issue prior to the pandemic.

"But, yes, this is something that the President is concerned about, that the Secretary of Education is concerned about, and we’re going to continue to do the work to make sure our kids have the resources that they need," she added.

Except, that's not what actually happened

A viral video clip of Jean-Pierre's remarks was shared on Twitter by the research arm of the Republican National Committee and it elicited a nearly unanimous response of disagreement from an assortment of users who accused the White House of "gaslighting" the American people or simply blatantly lying about where they had stood during the nationwide debate over school closures just a couple of years ago.

Indeed, CNN even reported in January 2022, after President Biden had been in office for a year, that Democrats had hurt themselves politically by continuing to argue even then that schools should be closed to in-person learning in some parts of the country.

According to a separate report from Fox News in September 2022, the effort to rewrite history on who supported school closures and for how long had already begun, but noted how multiple Republican-led states had already fully reopened schools long before Biden even entered office, much less signed into law his American Rescue Plan legislation that eventually prompted Democrat-led states to reluctantly reopen schools.

And, just last month, a GOP-led House committee grilled American Federation of Teachers union leader Randi Weingarten over allegations that her union had secretly conspired with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the early months of Biden's administration to keep schools closed by allowing the union to review and revise the CDC's recommendations on how to safely reopen schools in a manner that was impossible for many schools to achieve at that time.

Of course, Weingarten herself, who vehemently denied those allegations as "patently false," has herself been front and center in the effort to rewrite history over the past several weeks and months, even as there is ample video evidence and past articles from the time that feature her demanding that schools be kept closed and sharply critiquing Republican leaders who ignored her and reopened schools.

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