White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki claimed Tuesday that President Joe Biden’s speech — promoting two bills designed to overhaul elections for federal offices — was “not partisan.”
Psaki fielded questions during Tuesday’s press briefing and, despite the admission from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) that Biden’s comments had gone a bit too far, said that the president stood by his words.
“I want to pivot to voting rights, particularly on the president’s speech last week,” one reporter began. “I wonder if you can talk a little bit about how it came together, but also, I wonder, if you’ll respond to some of the criticism about it, that it was too aggressive or divisive in that some of the rhetoric wasn’t, you know, conducive to getting folks who were opposed on board.”
Psaki asked which issue the reporter wanted addressed first, and he said, “Whichever one is best for you.”
“Ok, well, I would say first that the president delivered a powerful speech about the protection of people’s fundamental rights in this country, which is their right to vote, the right to to vote for anyone they choose, whether it is him or someone else. It was not a partisan speech. It was intended to lay out for the public exactly what’s at stake and lay out for elected officials what’s at stake, and he stands by everything he said in that speech.”
Psaki on Biden’s Georgia speech on voting: “[T]he President delivered a powerful speech about the protection of people’s fundamental rights in this country, which is their right to vote…It was not a partisan speech…He stands by everything he said in that speech.” pic.twitter.com/hQiUKIvpSe
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) January 18, 2022
Biden raised eyebrows when, during his Georgia speech, he compared those who opposed a federal overhaul of election law to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, segregationist George Wallace, and Bull Connor — who set dogs on Civil Rights protesters.
“Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”
— President Biden urges lawmakers to support voting rights legislation pic.twitter.com/cIpacwOFyq
— The Recount (@therecount) January 11, 2022
Durbin, appearing on CNN’s “The Lead,” conceded to anchor Jake Tapper that the president might have gone too far in his rhetoric. As The Daily Wire reported:
“It is stark. And I will concede that point,” Durbin agreed. “But don’t overlook the reality that in 20 different states governed and led by Republicans in legislature and in governorship, and each and every one of them, they are taking step by weary step to make sure that fewer Americans vote.”
Durbin went on to claim that the comparisons were accurate, claiming that the segregationists wanted to reduce the number of Americans who could vote too, but he conceded, “Perhaps the president went a little too far in his rhetoric, some of us do.”
Psaki had previously laughed off criticisms of the speech, pivoting to attack former President Donald Trump when she called it “hilarious on many levels” that anyone would have a problem with Biden’s rhetoric after four years with Trump.
As the criticisms continued, she later claimed that Biden only meant to compare the choice they had to make and not the humans he mentioned by name.