Biden was speaking to a group assembled at a Washington, D.C. clinic Tuesday when he introduced Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID response coordinator. Except the president did not use that title.
“You see Dr. Jha there,” Biden said, pointing him out. “He’s the guy that’s running the CDC for me these days, basically.”
BIDEN: "You see Dr. Jha, see that guy right there? He's the guy that's running the CDC for me these days."
Rochelle Walensky is the director of the CDC. Ashish Jha is Biden's COVID response coordinator. pic.twitter.com/vmD1H4a1xk
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 21, 2022
The introduction must have come as news to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the actual director of the CDC. She was began leading the agency on January 20, 2021. Prior to taking the high-level Biden administration job, Walensky was the top infectious diseases expert at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Jha, who was named to his current position in April, is also a former Harvard professor.
The response on Twitter came swiftly.
“According to POTUS, Dr. Jha is “basically running the CDC” these days,” tweeted Fox News contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier. “If the WH advisor controls the CDC, what role does Dr. Walensky have? Does the CDC have any apolitical leadership anymore? FYI, lowering the facemask negates any effect it may have.”:
“Does this mean that Jha is “basically” running the CDC for the president, or is this a giant gaffe?” tweeted TexasConstitutionalist. “Well, either way, it’s horrible in its implications. And, I suppose, either way, it’s still a giant gaffe.”
The incident occurred when Biden and first lady Jill Biden visited a Washington, D.C., vaccination clinic where children from six months to age 5 are now being vaccinated for COVID. Walensky endorsed the new guidelines, although other nations are not vaccinating infants.
“This is a very historic milestone,” Biden said. “The United States is now the first country in the world to offer safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old.”
It was not the first time Biden has gotten confused about key members of his administration. In 2020, he botched Xavier Becerra’s name and title when introducing him as his choice for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“For Secretary of Health and Education Services, I nominate Xavier Bacheria,” Biden said.
Last year, Biden seemed to forget the name of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin while introducing him at a White House event.
“I want to thank the sec… the, the former general,” Biden said. “I keep calling him general, but my, my… the guy who runs that outfit over there. I want to make sure we thank the secretary for all he’s done to try to implement what we just talked about.”