President Joe Biden pushed back on claims stemming from a recent Vanity Fair article, saying that the White House never “rejected” a call for mass COVID-19 testing before the Christmas holiday.
VOA News reporter Steve Herman tweeted Biden’s response to a question on the topic as he and First Lady Jill Biden boarded Marine One to leave the White House on Monday.
“Departing the @WhiteHouse for Marine One with @FLOTUS, @POTUS is asked about the @VanityFair article alleging his administration rejected a holiday testing surge,” Herman tweeted. “‘We didn’t reject it,’ he replies.”
“We didn’t reject it,” he replies.
— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) December 27, 2021
President Biden gave a speech just before Christmas, addressing the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant and recent testing shortages, promising the American people that he would be sending out millions of test kits and adding that he wished he “had thought about ordering a half a billion” months earlier.
Biden repeatedly confused “test kits” & “pills” today when discussing shortages.
Biden: “500 million pills, I mean excuse me, 500 million test kits…I wish I had thought about ordering a half a billion pills two months ago”(again, he means test kits)pic.twitter.com/zFIr0cidFi
— Tommy Pigott (@TommyPigott) December 23, 2021
Former White House press secretary and Fox News contributor Ari Fleischer noted that Biden, despite his claims that he only wished he had thought to order millions of tests months earlier, had actually promised in early to September that he would deliver millions of tests by January.
“Time to be blunt. There is something wrong with Joe Biden’s memory. He doesn’t remember his generals telling him to leave 2500 troops in Afghanistan. They did. He must not remember saying in September he would provide 300million Covid test kits. Now he says no one thought of it,” he tweeted.
Time to be blunt. There is something wrong with Joe Biden’s memory. He doesn’t remember his generals telling him to leave 2500 troops in Afghanistan. They did. He must not remember saying in September he would provide 300million Covid test kits. Now he says no one thought of it.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) December 23, 2021
On September 9, before the emergence of Omicron, Biden announced that his administration would commit $2 billion “to purchase nearly 300 million rapid tests for distribution to community health centers, food banks, schools.”
Despite his September promise, Vanity Fair reported on December 23 that the Biden administration had “rejected” an October proposal meant to provide “free rapid tests for the holidays.”
The Biden Administration Rejected an October Proposal for ‘Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays’
This fall, Vanity Fair has learned, it dismissed a bold plan to ramp up rapid testing ahead of the holidays.
— Geoff Pilkington (@geoffpilkington) December 24, 2021
According to the report, the White House held a Zoom meeting with COVID-19 testing experts, who recommended an aggressive testing strategy that would put more home tests into the hands of regular Americans:
Three days after the meeting, on October 25, the COVID-19 testing experts—who hailed from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and several other organizations—received a back channel communication from a White House official. Their big, bold idea for free home tests for all Americans to avoid a holiday surge, they were told, was dead. That day, the administration instead announced an initiative to move rapid home tests more swiftly through the FDA’s regulatory approval process.
The goal, as stated by the testing experts, was to avoid the situation that brought holiday travel to a near standstill last week: testing shortages amid a renewed surge of infections driven by COVID-19’s Omicron variant, all just in time for the Christmas holiday.