White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki faced backlash on Friday afternoon after she claimed that President Joe Biden was not making a “human” comparison between Republicans and segregationists in a speech that he delivered this week that was widely panned, including by some Democrats, as being divisive.
Psaki made the remarks during the following exchange with Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy:
DOOCY: But as he talked about a year ago and working with Republicans, now he is talking about Republicans that don’t agree with voting rights – he’s describing them as George Wallace, Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis. What happened to the guy who — when he was elected said, “To make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy”?
PSAKI: I think everybody listening to that speech who is “speaking on the level,” as my mother would say, would note that he was not comparing them as humans, he was comparing the choice to those figures in history and where they’re going to position themselves if they — as they determine whether they’re going to support the fundamental right to vote or not.
Doocy: "As you talk about a yr ago & working w/Republicans, now he's talking about [those] that don't agree w/voting rights…as George Wallace, Bull Connor & Jefferson Davis. What happened to the guy who…said to make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy?" pic.twitter.com/YbmUGI2cZm
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) January 14, 2022
Doocy was referring to the following remarks from Biden:
I will defend the right to vote, our democracy against all enemies — foreign and, yes, domestic. … At consequential moments in history, they present a choice: Do you want to be the 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? This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.
Critics slammed and mocked Psaki for claiming that Biden “was not comparing” Republicans “as humans”:
- Erick Erickson, radio host: “This makes the matter worse because the story would have died, but now it gets to go on to highlight even more just what a stupid thing it was.”
- Chris Hartline, NRSC: “Lol. Once again, the White House tries to clean up the President’s mess by saying he didn’t actually say what he said.”
- David Harsanyi, National Review: “What the hell does this mean?”
- John McCormack, National Review: “Hate it when I accidentally compare my dear friends to George Wallace/Bull Connor/Jeff Davis and my friends immediately express outrage and it takes me 3 days to explain I didn’t really mean what I obviously said.”
- Tim Murtaugh, former Trump spokesman: “They are so bad at this. They wrote a speech that compared his political opponents to the most notorious racists in U.S. history, and then sent Biden out to read it. And now they say this after realizing what a terrible idea that was. Again, who thought this was a good idea?”
- Drew Holden, columnist: “That’s right, he specifically mentioned all the names of those humans to avoid making a “human” comparison, absolutely, very plausible.”
- Stephen Miller, former senior adviser to President Donald Trump: “Now they are dehumanizing their political opposition. A new low.”
- Mark Zinno, radio host: “I genuinely believe that people in the WH and around the President are tired of having to defend the things that come out of Biden’s mouth. It’s just ridiculous. Everyone should just say, ‘I have no idea what he was talking about’ and walk away.”
- Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner: “Joe Biden wasn’t making a human comparison when he compared humans.”
- Monica Crowley, former Trump official: “Absurd backpedaling = they saw the polling.”