Yesterday at the White House conference on hunger etc. President Biden sought to acknowledge deceased Rep. Jackie Walorski among those in attendance for the event (White House transcript here):
And I want to thank all of you here, including bipartisan elected officials like Representative McGovern, Senator Braun, Senator Booker, Representative — Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? I didn’t think she was — she wasn’t going to be here — to help make this a reality. And thanks to Senator Stabenow, Representative DeLauro for their leadership.
Not surprisingly, several White House reporters sought an explanation from press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. The communications team had put their heads together following Biden’s remarks and come up with a story, but the story is somewhere beyond farfetched.
I think I have pulled out from the transcript all the questions and answers on Biden’s senior moment. This is how it went:
Q What happened in the hunger event today? The President appeared to look around the room for an audience member, a member of Congress who passed away last month. He seemed to indicate she might be in the room. What happened there?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the President was, as you all know — you guys were watching today’s event, a very important event on food insecurity. The President was naming the congressional champions on this issue and was acknowledging her incredible work. He had — he had already planned to welcome the congresswoman’s family to the White House on Friday. There will be a bill signing in her honor this coming Friday.
So, of course, she was on his mind. She was of top of mind for the President. He looks — very much looks forward to discussing her remarkable legacy of public service with them when he sees her family this coming Friday.
Q He said, “Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? She must not be here.”
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I totally understand. I just — I just explained she was on top of mind. You know, this wasn’t — what we were able to witness today and what the President was able to lift up in this — at this conference at this event was how her — her focus on wanting to deal with, combat food — food insecurity in America. And this is something that he was lifting up and honoring.
And, again, he knows that he’s going to see her family this coming Friday. There’s a bill signing that’s going to happen in renaming a VA clinic in Indiana after the late congresswoman. He knows that he is going to see her family, and she was at top of mind.
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Q And just one more quick follow-up, because I’m trying to get my head around the response. If the late congresswoman was top of mind for the President and her family was expected to be here and that’s what he was thinking about, what — why was he looking for her? I’m not trying to be snarky here. But I —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I mean — and I’m —
Q I don’t understand the connection between what you’re saying and what he said there.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: And, again, I think people can understand, I think the American people out there who, you know, watch the briefing from time to time, maybe at this moment, will understand when someone is at top of mind. And — and this was such an important — such an important event, when we’re talking about hunger, when we’re talking about food insecurity, when we’re talking about these champions, these congressional champions who were in the room, who have worked in a bipartisan way.
You know, we don’t talk much about bipartisan actions that we see in Congress at this time. And as he was naming folks, he — she was on top of mind, and he understands and knew that she was — he was going to see her family on Friday for this bill signing.
Again, I don’t think it’s all that unusual to have someone top of mind, especially as there’s a big event — two big events — today and also Friday — that is going to occur. And so he’s going to see her family. They’re going to honor her. They’re going to celebrate her. And he will do a bill signing for this really critical — let’s not forget — this critical, important issue for millions and millions of Americans across the country.
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Q I’m sorry to have to do this, but I’m compelled to ask you to go one more time back to the question about Congresswoman Walorski.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not sure why. Why? Why one more time?
Q Well, because I think — frankly, honestly, I think the memory of the congresswoman in history requires some clarity here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hmmm —
Q Can you explain where the mistake was made? Did the Pres- — was the President confused? Was something written in the teleprompter that he didn’t recognize? Can you just help us understand what happened?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you’re jumping to a lot of conclusions.
Q No, I’m simply seeing — seeking to find —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, but you’re — but I —
Q — out what happened here.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, I hear you, Steven. I’m — I’m answering the question, that you’re jumping to a lot of conclusions.
I just answered the question. If I had said — if that had been the case, I would have stated that. Right? I clearly have stated what you just laid out.
What I had said is that she was on top of mind and that he is going to see her family in just two days’ time, on Friday, to honor her, to honor her work, to honor — to honor her legacy, if you will. I just mentioned this. It’s going to be a renaming of a VA clinic in Indiana in her name. And, you know, that is — that is what he was thinking of.
He was thinking about her as he was — as he was naming out and calling out the congressional champions on this issue — on this really critical issue that’s going to help millions of Americans. And that is — that is — that is what the President was focused on.
Q Would you be prepared to release the prepared remarks that the President had in the teleprompter just so we could understand?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not understanding why — why that would be — would be necessary. We always share the remarks that the President had — even, you know, delivered. That’s probably going to be up on the website. Not really sure what that has to do with anything.
I just answered the question about her being on top of mind. I don’t think that’s any — that’s unusual. I feel like many of us have gone through that particular, you know, time where someone is on top of mind and you call them out and you mention them. Especially in this — this type of context, if you think about how he’s going to the see the family in two days; if you think about how, when he sees them in two days, it’s going to be for such an important moment, assigning — signing a piece of legislation that’s going to rename a VA clinic in her state — that’s important — if you think about this issue and how important this issue is.
And he was, again, calling out congressional champions for this particular issue.
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Q Lastly, I just wanted to return to this question of the congresswoman. And I think we all totally get why she’s top of mind. You’ve made that case pretty effectively.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, thank you.
Q But I think the confusing part is why, if she and the family is top of mind, does the President think that she’s living and in the room?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t find that confusing. I mean, I think many people can speak to sometimes when you have someone top of mind, they are top of mind. Exactly that. And it is also — if you put it into the context, it’s not like it happened without — outside of context, right?
It happened at an event where we were cha- — we were calling out the champions — congressional champions, in particular, of this issue — this important issue, when it comes to food insecurity, something that this administration has led on — led on from the beginning of this administration, not just across the country but also globally.
You heard him talk about food insecurity last week at the U.N. and the investments that we have put forward as — as the — as the United States of America and helping — and helping deal with that.
Look, he was at an event — you all saw, you all watched, which is why you’re asking the question — right? — where he was calling out, again, congressional leaders — a bipartisan leadership that we have seen on this particular issue.
And, again, he’s going to see her family in just two days, and she was on top of mind. I mean, I don’t — that is — I mean, that is — that is not an unusual — unusual scenario there.
Q Karine, I have John Lennon top of mind just about every day, but I’m not looking around for him anywhere.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: When you sign a bill for John Lennon — Lennon as president then we can have this conversation.
Q Why doesn’t he just apologize?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: — go ahead. Go ahead.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
Q Thanks, Karine. There are —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Q These moments of confusion are happening with increasing frequency.
Q Why not just apologize?
Jean-Pierre never did get around to answering that last question. Something — something other than love — means he can’t say “I’m sorry.”