White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked Monday by Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Doocy why travel bans extended and expanded under a President Joe Biden are not considered “xenophobic.”
“When President Trump was imposing travel restrictions in March, specifically on China, then-candidate Biden called it ‘xenophobic’ and ‘fearmongering,'” Doocey told Psaki. “So now-President Biden is putting travel restrictions on people coming in from other countries.”
“What word do we use to describe that?”
The press secretary took issue with the reporter’s question, asserting that the framing was inaccurate.
“Well, I don’t think that’s quite a fair articulation,” Psaki responded. “The President has been clear that he felt the Muslim ban was xenophobic. He overturned the Muslim ban.”
“He also, though, has supported … even before he was inaugurated — steps, travel restrictions in order to keep the American people safe to ensure that we are getting the pandemic under control,” she continued. “That’s been part of his policy.”
“But he was critical of the former president for having a policy that was not more comprehensive than travel restrictions,” Psaki added. “And he conveyed at the time, and more recently, the importance of having a multifaceted approach — mask wearing, vaccine distribution funding in order to get 100 million shots in the arms of Americans in the first hundred days, not just travel restrictions.”
President Biden announced Monday that he’ll be extending set-to-be-expired travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, adding on a ban from South Africa — all as precautions against the coronavirus.
On March 18, then-President Donald Trump tweeted about his early move to block travel from China in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
“I always treated the Chinese Virus very seriously, and have done a very good job from the beginning, including my very early decision to close the ‘borders’ from China – against the wishes of almost all. Many lives were saved. The Fake News new narrative is disgraceful & false!” Trump wrote on Twitter, a platform he has since been banned from.
Quote-tweeting the post from Trump, Biden wrote, “Stop the xenophobic fear-mongering. Be honest. Take responsibility. Do your job.”
Stop the xenophobic fear-mongering. Be honest. Take responsibility. Do your job. https://t.co/nQ5aLVrpyb
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) March 18, 2020
A CNN “fact-check” essentially concluded it was misleading to suggest Biden had called Trump “xenophobic” for implementing the vital travel restrictions against China early on in the pandemic. The Daily Wire reported:
As part of its “fact check” of the first presidential debate, CNN claimed President Donald Trump’s accusation that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called his China travel ban “xenophobic” at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic was “lacking context.”
“Defending his response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump referenced the travel restrictions his administration imposed on foreign nationals who had been in China, then attacked Biden for remarks he had made the same day,” CNN wrote. “Addressing his opponent, Trump said, ‘I closed it, and you said, ‘He’s xenophobic. He’s a racist and he’s xenophobic,’ because you didn’t think I should have closed our country.’”
It’s not clear Biden even knew about Trump’s China travel restrictions when he called Trump xenophobic on the day the restrictions were unveiled; Biden has never explicitly linked his accusation of xenophobia to these travel restrictions.
The campaign says Biden’s January 31 accusations – that Trump has a record of “hysterical xenophobia” and “fear mongering” – were not about the travel restrictions at all. The campaign says Biden did not know about the restrictions at the time of his speech, since his campaign event in Iowa started shortly after the Trump administration briefing where the restrictions were revealed by Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
Given the timing of the Biden remarks, it’s not unreasonable for Trump to infer that the former vice president was talking about the travel restrictions. But Biden never took an explicit position on the restrictions until his April declaration of support.
“CNN uses a narrow timeline ‘on the day the restrictions were unveiled’ to shield Biden,” argued Schow. “Perhaps Biden’s allegations of ‘xenophobia’ weren’t aimed at the travel restrictions on that day, but CNN’s later claim that ‘Biden never took an explicit position on the restrictions until his April declaration of support’ is wrong.”
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 25, 2021