President Joe Biden faced a surprising — and blistering — response from the mainstream media Friday after claiming, in a speech Friday afternoon on the Afghanistan withdrawal, that he and his administration had “no indications” that Americans are having difficulty getting to the airport in Kabul.
“We know of no circumstances” where Americans are unable to get to evacuation flights, Biden claimed. “We have no indication that they haven’t been able to get through Kabul to the airport.”
He later clarified that “To the best of our knowledge the Taliban checkpoints they are letting through people showing American passports. Now that’s a different question when they get in the rush and crowd of all the folks just outside the wall near the airport.”
That seems to contradict on-the-ground reporting from places like CNN and NBC News, which said Friday that the Taliban has set up checkpoints around the Kabul airport and is reviewing individuals’ paperwork, searching for Afghan coalition allies. Videos, taken outside Kabul airport, show a crush of people, often being indiscriminately whipped and beaten by Taliban soldiers.
The situation at Kabul airport is a disaster. pic.twitter.com/aZHkUqJZA6
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) August 20, 2021
National Security reporter Sasha Ingber, who reported early Friday that Americans were “beaten throughout the night” by the Taliban as they attempted to go through the gates at Kabul airport, noted that the Biden administration is continuing to say that “Americans are not being impeded as they travel to the Kabul airport,” and that no Americans have been harmed.
“What I am hearing suggests otherwise. Americans have been injured and stopped from boarding planes,” Ingber noted.
Following Biden’s speech, Fox News national security reporter Jennifer Griffin blasted Biden for living in an “alternate reality.”
“I’m having a hard time digesting what we heard because I couldn’t fact-check it fast enough in real-time because there were so many misrepresentations of what is happening on the ground,” she said, adding that it was “an alternate reality presented by the White House.”
Fox News, though, often presents a view in opposition to the president. That is not true, typically, for CNN or ABC News, both of which also blistered the president’s take on Americans’ ability to navigate a dangerous journey to the Kabul airport from anywhere else in the region.
ABC News’s David Muir asked the network’s Afghanistan correspondent Ian Pannell, flat out, whether the president’s assessment of the situation on the ground was accurate.
“I mean—just totally not,” Pannell answered.
“It just seems the reality and the rhetoric are miles apart,” he added. “I’m not quite sure what advice the president is receiving. But the truth on the ground is that these people who are in fear of their lives can’t get through.”
Pannell added that he witnessed Americans being “beaten by the Taliban with the rubber fan belt from a vehicle.”
.@DavidMuir: "The president said he has no intelligence that the Americans have not been able to get [to the Kabul airport]. The question, obviously—does that square with reporting on ground?"@IanPannell: "I mean—just totally not."
— ABC News (@ABC) August 20, 2021
CNN’s Clarissa Ward, who spent days outside the airport in Kabul, reporting on scenes of mass pandemonium, was aghast.
“We had difficulty getting into the airport. Working out how to get to the airport is like a Rubik’s cube,” Ward said. “It’s very difficult. It’s not a simple process at all. And you might remember I did a live shot a couple of days ago outside the airport. I was talking to people with green cards, people who had all their SIV applications accepted, their visa, and they couldn’t get close.”
“Anyone who says that any American can get in here is, you know — yeah, I mean, technically, it’s possible, but it’s extremely difficult and it is dangerous,” she added.
CNN’s Richard Engel also blasted the president: “Biden just described a very orderly process, an American airlift that is going efficiently, that there’s a negotiation with the Taliban, that it may be difficult but Afghans can get to the airport. It is far more chaotic than that.”
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