Things got downright surreal during White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki’s briefings this week, which included a question from a fictional Lego-based reporter and a visit from a giant white rabbit. In case you missed them, here are the good, bad, and ugly moments that went down this week.
The week started with the perfect metaphor for the often psychedelic nature Psaki’s tenure, as her briefing was interrupted when a giant white rabbit in a Covid mask busted in to hand out candy.
The intrepid Psaki used the interruption as an opportunity to model Covid precautions, while the press made quips that included “Is the bunny taking questions?”
Psaki joked about inviting the bunny back for future briefings, but she probably ought to get it a press pass, because the rabbit could scarcely be sillier than some of the people who actually do occupy those seats.
For example, the reporter who got interrupted by that bunny was smack in the middle of trying to help out a week-long effort to undermine voting rights on the basis of President Joe Biden’s mischaracterization of one — out of hundreds — of the voter suppression laws that Republicans have proposed or enacted in order to make it more difficult for people to vote.
Psaki copped to the mistake, but was steadfast in noting that “what’s important is to report on all of the components that make it more difficult to vote in the package in the legislation,” and declined another reporter’s invitation to change tone on voter suppression.
Just as surreal, if less infuriating, was the discussion of the definition of “infrastructure,” which Psaki laid out in excruciating detal throughout Monday’s briefing, including an exhaustive two-minute litany describing all of the things that the president considers to be infrastructure.
But that didn’t stop one reporter, seconds after Psaki had just restated several of her earlier points, from asking “So what is the White House’s definition of infrastructure exactly?”
“Well, I think it’s what I went through earlier when Alex asked the question, which is clearly a number of the items I just talked about,” Psaki said, and then listed them all again.
And if you rewind one minute, that same reporter — who is not from an outlet that is considered conservative — flat-out declared as fact that the Republican plan constitutes “a more traditional definition of infrastructure.”
First, let me say, on Colorado. Colorado allows you to register on Election Day, Colorado has voting by mail where they send, to 100% of people in the state who are eligible, applications to vote by mail.
94% of people in Colorado voted by mail in the 2020 election. And they also allow for a range of materials to provide even if they vote on election Day for the limited number of people who vote on election day.
I think it’s important to remember the context here. The Georgia legislation is built on a lie. There was no widespread fraud in the 2020 election, Georgia’s top Republican election officials have acknowledged that repeatedly in interviews.
And what there was, however, was record-setting turnout, especially by voters of color. So instead, what we’re seeing here, for politicians who didn’t like the outcome, they’re not changing their policies to win more votes, they’re changing the rules to exclude more voters. And we certainly see the circumstances as different.
And ultimately, let me add one more thing, it’s up to Major League Baseball to determine where they’re holding their All-Star Game.
But perhaps even more galling was a reporter from a supposedly objective-to-liberal network taking it upon herself to extract a pledge from the White House not to “influence corporations” on the issue of voting rights — an outrageous breach that Psaki treated with far more patience than it deserved.
Q And Mitch McConnell says that, “We are witnessing a coordinated campaign by powerful and wealthy people to mislead” and to use the bully pulpit about this law. Will the White House say explicitly that it is not trying to influence corporations or organizations to take action on state-level decisions like this?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve conveyed it, and I’m happy to answer your question directly. We’ve not asked corporations to take specific actions. That’s not our focus here. Our focus is on continuing to convey that it’s important that voting is easier, not harder; that when there are laws in place that make it harder, we certainly express an opposition to those laws.
Another right-wing reporter tried to make hay out of Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to a bakery, suggesting it shows she’s not “still working” on the border issue she’s been entrusted with and agitating for a trip to the border.
Psaki responded “I would say the Vice President was visiting Chicago actually to talk about COVID and the importance of communities getting the vaccine when it’s available and accessible to them. And so, while she was there, like many Americans, she got a snack. I think she’s allowed to do that.”
The same reporter also tried to shoehorn a Caitlyn Jenner question in to another briefing, in a clumsy attempt to weaponize Democratic values of inclusion into some kid of half-assed “gotcha,” and Psaki cut the dude deep — but with a smile.
MS. PSAKI: Are you announcing her run?
Q No, no. I’m just announcing an Axios report.
MS. PSAKI: Are you working for her?
Q I am not.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
Q I’m not. But — and I’m not asking you to endorse anyone, but I was wondering if the White House welcomes this appearance, a LGBT milestone.
MS. PSAKI: We certainly would welcome the freedom of any — any human be participating in the democratic process to run for office, of course, and including, of course, transgender members of our society.
It’s actually not an LGBT milestone, as Ms. Jenner would not be the first “prominent transgender gubernatorial candidate” if she were to decide to run for governor of California. In fact, Christine Hallquist, a Democrat, was the first transgender woman to win a major party nomination for governor. She won Vermont’s Democratic primary but lost to incumbent Republican Phil Scott in 2018.
Psaki had a ready answer for another reporter who actually asked if it was “dangerous” to cite polling that shows overwhelming support for President Biden’s infrastructure plan.
“Do you not think the American people’s view is important as it relates to what elected officials do on the Hill?” Psaki asked.
“Sure. But don’t polls change a lot, whereas the elected officials are elected officials representing…” the reporter started.
“There’s been pretty consistent support for infrastructure,” Psaki said. Fact check: true.
But the most surreal and telling moment of the week was when a supposedly legit reporter went deep on a question that was actually posed by a fictional Lego-based character, and which appeared to echo the unhinged rantings of a Newsmax host.
The question he was following up on was submitted by by someone identifying herself as Kacey Montagu, which appears to be a gag persona for a former Secretary of State made of Legos. The Montagu website‘s FAQ section describes her as “An American Citizen. Former Secretary of State, Mayor, Senator, President Pro Tempore and Speaker of the House,” and her political views as “President Trump 2024, baby! I’m a Conservative.”
As if this all needed to get stranger, the fictional Montgu is now bristling at the “Lego” descriptor on the basis that she’s more of a Roblox, which is totally different.
mr tommy. this is fake news. like what?! pic.twitter.com/ygAgGKbEaa
— Kacey ‘Lego’ Montagu (@SecMontagu) April 8, 2021
To be clear, Lego and Roblox are not affiliated. But according to Politico, you’re Lego. Sorry, Kacey.
The week ended on a nice note, as Psaki took a question remotely — very remotely — from a reporter in Juneau, Alaska. After some technical difficulty, the first remote Q&A of Psaki’s tenure was a success.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.