Speaking at a White House press briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki tried to put a better gloss on President Biden’s remarks in which he referred to the GOP leadership’s decision in Texas and Mississippi to open their states as “Neanderthal thinking.” Psaki stated, “The behavior of a Neanderthal, just to be very clear, the behavior of,” when asked, “How does comparing somebody to a Neanderthal convince them to change course and get on board with your public health message?”
On Wednesday, Joe Biden mocked Texas and Mississippi after their GOP governors announced that they were fully reopening their economies and lifting mandatory mask mandates. He sniped:
I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms. We’ve been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American, to get every adult American to get a shot.
“The last thing, the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in mean time everything’s fine, take off your mask,” Biden continued. “Forget it. It’s still matters. … And it’s critical — critical, critical, critical — that they follow the science. Wash your hands, hot water, do it frequently. Wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that; I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”
At the press briefing, Psaki was asked, “The governor of Mississippi has responded to the president’s comments yesterday, and he seems to have taken offense at some of the president’s language.”
President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is “neanderthal thinking.”
Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.
— Governor Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) March 3, 2021
The reporter continued, “He says ‘Mississippians don’t need handlers. I just think we should trust Americans and not insult them.’ He’s making an argument that this is really about personal liberty here. Does the president have any second thoughts about the language that he used yesterday, and how does comparing someone to a Neanderthal help convince them to change course and get on board with your public health message?”
Psaki spun Biden’s remarks this way: “The behavior of a Neanderthal, just to be very clear, the behavior of. Look, I think the president — what everybody saw yesterday was a reflection of his frustration and exasperation, which I think many American people have, that for almost a year now, people across the country have sacrificed, and many times they haven’t had information they need from the federal government.”
Asserting that the people of Texas and Mississippi, among other states, had been ignorant of public health guidelines, she continued, “They haven’t had access to a greater understanding of what the public health guideline should look like, and those include many, many people in Mississippi, in Texas, in Ohio, Florida, in every state across the country. He believes that with more than half a million Americans’ lives lost, with families that continue to suffer, that it’s imperative that people listen across the country, whether they live in a red state or a blue state, to the guidance of public health experts.”