In her very first press conference, new Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that when Joe Biden asked her to do the job, they talked of the “importance of bringing truth and transparency back to the briefing room.” Later she added, “If the president were standing with me here today, he would say he works for the American, I work for him, so I also work for the American people. So his objective and his commitment is to bring transparency and truth back to government, to share the truth even when it is hard to hear, and that is something I hope to deliver on as well.”
What a nice speech! And I would be shocked if a single member of the press corps didn’t know it was utter, complete, transparent bull shit. It did give various news sources an opening for another cheap shot against President Trump, because HIS press secretaries were always spinning and obfuscating. Not Jen! SHE worked for an honest President, so she will always be honest.
This was a stupid, stupid thing for Psaki to say. As Ethics Alarms has noted through two administrations and seven Presidential mouthpieces, these are paid liars. That’s their job. It’s a somewhat easier job when the news media is devoted to giving the boss a pass, as it was with Obama and now again with Biden, but even then, press secretaries are seldom transparent and often untruthful. All of them. In fact, Psaki was lying when she said she was going to be transparent and truthful, so she broke her pledge on Day One.
Day Two, however, was hilarious, or cruel, or perfect, depending on your orientation.
The new President violated his very first executive order requiring masks and social distancing on federal property almost immediately after signing it yesterday, appearing on camera maskless as he crowded in for pictures with his similarly unmasked family at the Lincoln Memorial. The celebrities who spoke and performed for Biden’s inaugural festivities also violated the mandate. The whole throng of reporters at Psaki’s press briefing would have been all over a Trump spokesperson over such blatant hypocrisy, but today, it was up to the Fox News reporter Peter Doocy (See? There is a reason for Fox News’ existence!) to challenge Biden’s press secretary to live up to her pledge.
Doocy asked, during today’s press conference, “Why weren’t President Biden and all members of the Biden family masked at all times on federal lands last night if he signed an executive order that mandates masks on federal lands at all times?”
Now, a truthful and transparent answer to that question would have been something like, “What can I say, Peter? The President screwed up. He obviously should not have done that, or allowed his family or others to violate an order he had just signed. This doesn’t engender trust in the seriousness of our efforts to contain the pandemic, and too many elected officials across the country, mayors and governors and others, have given the impression that ‘laws are for the little people,’ and they can break their own rules, because they are special. That’s wrong, and equally wrong for Presidents. I’m sure President Biden regrets this mistake.”
Nah. Why be truthful and transparent when you can avoid answering the question by changing the subject?
“I think… he was celebrating an evening, a historic day in our country,” Psaki replied, “And certainly he signed the mask mandate because it’s a way to send a message to the American public about the importance of wearing masks, how it can save tens of thousands of lives.”
But..but… Jen! How does violating his own mask mandate send that message? Doesn’t doing that send the opposite message? Jen?
The White House press secretary continued to deflect, saying that the administration takes “a number of COVID precautions” and listed a some, saying, “I don’t know that I have more for you on it than that.”
So the President didn’t wear a mask because…his administration takes precautions?
“But as Joe Biden often talks about, it is not just important the example of power, but the power of our example,” Doocy aksed. “Was that a good example for people who were watching who might not pay attention normally?”
“Well… I think the power of his example is also the message he sends by signing 25 executive orders including almost half of them related to COVID,” Psaki responded “Yesterday was a historic moment in our history, he was inaugurated as president of the United States, he was surrounded by his family—we take a number of precautions, but I think we have bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time.”
Huh? The president didn’t wear a mask because he signed other executive orders besides the one he ignored? I know you are being transparent, Jen, but that makes no sense whatsoever. And did you really just say that obeying pandemic safety rules aren’t as important as celebrating?
Here’s a gratis ethics tip for the new press secretary. Don’t make promises you can’t keep for at least 24 hours. Don’t pretend you’re better than any other flack that has had your job. And don’t insult the public’s intelligence by pretending your responsibility is to tell the truth, or that your boss is any more committed to “transparency” than any other President. You’re a paid liar. You know it, the news media knows it, and I know it. The best you can do is to avoid being a ridiculous paid liar.
You are not off to a good start.