White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was grilled during Monday’s press conference over the administration’s claim over the weekend that pro-freedom Cuban demonstrators were protesting over COVID-19.
“And then on Cuba, you’re talking today about how some of these protests are inspired by people exhausted with the government,” Fox News reporter Peter Doocy said. “Why is it that yesterday the State Department was saying that this was all happening out of concern about rising COVID cases?”
“Well, I would say first, that the protests were just happening yesterday, we’re still assessing what is motivating and, of course, in driving all of the individuals who came to the streets, but we know that when we say exhaustion, the, the, um, the, uh, the manner by which the people of Cuba are governed, that can cover a range of issues, whether it’s economic suppression, media suppression, lack of access to health and medical supplies, including vaccines,” Psaki claimed. “There are a range of reasons and voices we’re hearing from people on the ground who are protesting.”
“So, when these protesters are yelling ‘freedom’ and ‘enough’ there are people within the administration who think they’re saying freedom from rising COVID cases?” Doocy pressed.
“Again, I would say that when people are out there in the streets protesting and complaining about the lack of access to economic prosperity, to the medical supplies they need, to a life they deserve to live, that can take on a range of meanings,” Psaki claimed. “There’s a global pandemic right now. Most people in that country don’t have access to vaccines. That certainly is something we’d love to help with.”
Peter Doocy grills Psaki on the Biden admin's suggestion that the protests in Cuba are in response to COVID: "So when these protestors are yelling 'freedom' and 'enough,' there are people in the administration who think they are saying 'freedom from rising COVID cases'?" pic.twitter.com/w66RgxEYnB
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) July 12, 2021
Doocy’s questions came in response to Julie Chung, Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, claiming that the protests were centered around the coronavirus pandemic.
“Peaceful protests are growing in #Cuba as the Cuban people exercise their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages,” Chung tweeted. “We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need.”
As The Daily Wire reported on Sunday, the administration faced intense backlash to the statement, including from some of the following figures:
- Heydi Geroy, Cuban refugee and conservative activist: “The Cuban people have been denied the right to ‘peaceful assembly’ for over 60 years. This is so disrespectful in so many levels to the thousands of Cubans who have faced the firing squad for just trying to peacefully protest! @WHAAsstSecty have you been living under a rock?!”
- Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL): “The Biden Admin is totally deranged on #Cuba policy. This isn’t some pesky protest over COVID vaccines. This is about opposing a brutal communist regime, freeing political prisoners, and demanding free elections. If you can’t make that distinction, you are very bad at your job.”
- Alberto Miguel Fernandez, retired U.S. diplomat: “What a dull, lifeless, dumb tweet by #Biden @StateDept official. People in Cuba aren’t calling for COVID shots or medicine. They are calling for Freedom.”
- Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX): “No they’re chanting LIBERTAD. Stop playing cover for communists and support the Cuban people. My god. Why is that so hard for you.”
- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): “This is a ridiculous tweet from @StateDept People in #Cuba are protesting 62 years of socialism, lies, tyranny & misery not ‘expressing concern about rising COVID cases/deaths’ Why is it so hard for @potus & the people in his administration to say that?”