White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki cast the school re-opening debate as a mere “sideshow,” pushed by Republicans to distract from real issues, during a Thursday appearance on the Pod Save America podcast.
Psaki claimed that the press office is frequently combatting conspiracy theories perpetuated by Republicans in government, lumping in the Dr. Seuss controversy and the claim that the administration planned to ban meat with questions about why the administration has not been more forceful in calling out teachers unions for refusing to reopen schools.
“Our focus is trying not to get distracted by side shows that are an attempt by Republicans in Congress to distract us, whether its Dr. Seuss…or even for a while it was school re-opening.”
“We try to keep our blinders on,” Psaki commented.
The response was prompted by former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer’s claim that “you have this totally messed up information ecosystem, you have Republicans who are actively engaging in disinformation.”
“How are you thinking about how you navigate that on a day to day basis?” he asked.
The press secretary replied, “It’s a challenge.”
Psaki then jokingly referenced the rumors that Vice President Kamala Harris’s books were being distributed in migrant detention facilities along the southern border, an allegation which has since been debunked.
“There was a whole day about whether or not the vice president’s books were being distributed through packages that were going at the shelters,” Psaki said.
Teachers unions, particularly those in major coastal cities, have fought for months to keep teachers out of classrooms despite overwhelming scientific evidence that children are not at serious risk from COVID and do not transmit the virus in high numbers.
The press secretary has been asked by reporters to speak to the teacher unions’ opposition to school re-opening at multiple past press briefings but has so far refused to commit to take a hard line on the matter.
Psaki’s comments on the podcast come after President Biden announced Friday during an appearance on NBC News Today that schools ‘should probably all be open’ in the fall since there is little evidence of coronavirus transmission among children.