Doocy Schools the WH Over the Sudden Change on Masks; ‘What Was the Big Breakhrough?!’

Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy went into the weekend on a bang, hammering the Biden administration during Friday’s briefing about the sudden change no longer requiring vaccinated people to mask or socially distance indoors and outdoors. Specifically, he wondered what the “big breakthrough” was since President Biden had said in March that such a change was “Neanderthal thinking.”

Doocy first told Press Secretary Jen Psaki there’s been “a lot of questions about the timing of the CDC’s announcement yesterday,” so he first wanted to know whether anyone on Team Biden had the update done out of “political reasons.”

When Psaki said “no,” Doocy followed up by wanting to know the “medical or scientific reason” or “what…the big breakthrough” was to have pulled the trigger on Thursday.

Psaki insisted that CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky had done “an extensive number of interviews yesterday to answer exactly that question, but as we’ve talked in here quite a bit about, the CDC, not just Dr. Walensky, but her entire team of health and medical experts are constantly reviewing the data to ensure that they can provide accurate and up to date guidance.”

Seeing as how Walensky said in March she had a feeling of “impending doom” about a rise in coronavirus cases and deaths and muddied the waters on kids being able to go to summer camp, she’s objectively had a rough go at things in having a consistent, scientific message. 

Psaki also said the CDC had fulfilled three criteria on vaccinations and variants, but it amounted to nothing of substance.

Add in the litany of economic problems facing the country and it sure seems like an attempt to change the narrative (and seeing as how the Liz Cheney narrative didn’t seem to work)! Alas, Psaki spun and lied and everyone except Doocy seemed fine with that.    

Doocy then read back the CDC’s own statistics showing “only 45.6 percent of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated as of yesterday” with “[o]nly 58.9 percent of the adult population had — has at least one dose” and asked what happened to the administration’s push to have all American adults vaccinated first.

To underline this, Doocy cited Biden’s own words that many in the media were happy to trumpet: “[S]o what happened to President Biden saying in March that he thought lifting mask mandates before every adult American goes and gets a shot is Neanderthal thinking?”

This went on for a few minutes with Psaki going on and on about the Biden executive branch leading with scientists as their “North Star” (and not Biden, as some have claimed) and letting them make decisions. 

Doocy tried again to wonder whether red-state governors are still Neanderthals, but Psaki remained non-committal (click “expand”):

PSAKI: Well, first let me say that the President — our North Star — has been listening to the guidance of our health and medical experts and teams, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this case and just to reiterate — the CDC, the doctors and medical experts there were the ones who determined what this guidance would be based on their own data, and what the timeline would be. That was not a decision directed by, made by the White House. It was informed — the White House was informed of that decision just to give people assurance of that.

DOOCY: So, does the President still think that these red state governors who were a little bit ahead of the federal government in lifting the mask mandates had neanderthal thinking?

PSAKI: Well again. I would say that even with this guidance that’s out there, the guidance is not telling states and localities exactly how they should implement. As you know, there are some localities and government — in states in the country that have higher rates of vaccination and then others, some communities that have higher rates of vaccinations than others, and we even know as this is being implemented that different localities, businesses will implemented in the way that they feel will help ensure their community is safe, but I know I am reassured by listening to the health — the guidance of health and medical experts, not political decision-making, so that’s the point right now. 

Doocy wrapped his turn by connecting the dots on the fact that the White House learned of the CDC’s decision in the 9:00 p.m. Eastern hour on Wednesday, but it was Walensky who went on CNN’s Cuomo Prime Time during that same hour and said, in Doocy’s summation, “that the science wasn’t there yet” to allow vaccinated people to end masking and social distancing.

Playing dumb, Psaki said she hadn’t seen the interview and, even then, only “a small number of” White House staff knew about the change.

Besides that, Psaki concluded by suggesting that Walensky gave that answer because “they were not ready to make the announcement yet, but I’d — I’d point to the CDC on their specific rollout plan.”

To see the relevant transcript from May 14’s briefing, click “expand.”

White House Press Briefing (via ABC News Live)
May 14, 2021
1:28 p.m. Eastern

PETER DOOCY: There are a lot of questions about the timing of the CDC’s announcement yesterday. So did somebody at the Biden Administration or in the Biden Administration update this guidance for political reasons. 

JEN PSAKI: No. 

DOOCY: So, what was the medical or scientific reason? What was the big breakthrough to do this yesterday? 

PSAKI: Well, I know that Dr. Walensky did an extensive number of interviews yesterday to answer exactly that question, but as we’ve talked in here quite a bit about, the CDC, not just Dr. Walensky, but her entire team of health and medical experts are constantly reviewing the data to ensure that they can provide accurate and up to date guidance to the American people. So — based on three factors as she talked about yesterday: vaccines work in the real world. We’ve seen a lot of studies done on that, including internally in the federal government. Vaccine stand up to the variants, which, at various times, has been a concern about the need to continue to masking — to mask even as you — after you’re vaccinated and vaccinated people are less likely to transmit the virus. That’s how they came to the decision, and that’s what she conveyed yesterday when she announced the decision.

DOOCY: But just looking at the CDC’s website on the way up here, only 45.6 percent of U.S. adults have been fully vaccinated as of yesterday. Only 58.9 percent of the adult population had — has at least one dose, so what happened to President Biden saying in March that he thought lifting mask mandates before every adult American goes and gets a shot is neanderthal thinking? 

PSAKI: Well, first let me say that the president — our North Star — has been listening to the guidance of our health and medical experts and teams, and that’s exactly what we’re doing in this case and just to reiterate — the CDC, the doctors and medical experts there were the ones who determined what this guidance would be based on their own data, and what the timeline would be. That was not a decision directed by, made by the White House. It was informed — the White House was informed of that decision just to give people assurance of that.

DOOCY: So, does the President still think that these red state governors who were a little bit ahead of the federal government in lifting the mask mandates had neanderthal thinking?

PSAKI: Well again. I would say that even with this guidance that’s out there, the guidance is not telling states and localities exactly how they should implement. As you know, there are some localities and government — in states in the country that have higher rates of vaccination and then others, some communities that have higher rates of vaccinations than others, and we even know as this is being implemented that different localities, businesses will implemented in the way that they feel will help ensure their community is safe, but I know I am reassured by listening to the health — the guidance of health and medical experts, not political decision-making, so that’s the point right now. 

DOOCY: And my last one. Andy Slavitt said this morning that the White House found out the mask guidance was gonna change at nine p.m. the night before. Were you guys surprised that in the 9:00 hour, at 9:25, the CDC director was on CNN saying that the science wasn’t there yet. 

PSAKI: I didn’t watch that interview. I could just tell you that a small number of — that they were and we were informed the night before that the guidance — that they’ve made a decision about the guidance. They plan to announce that the next day and even here only a small number of people knew that that announcement is gonna be made. Hence, if you were here yesterday, you saw kind of shock [sic] of people taking off their masks around the building. But, you know, it may have been at the point where they were not ready to make the announcement yet, but I’d — I’d point to the CDC on their specific rollout plan.

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