CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Thursday repeatedly confronted White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki over President Joe Biden’s voting-rights comments during the day prior’s White House briefing.
The relentless grilling Psaki received on the airwaves of CNN—a network she once worked for as an on-air contributor—was in stark contrast to the surprisingly friendly and congenial conversation she had just hours earlier on conservative cable giant Fox News.
“This morning you said President Biden ‘was not casting doubt’ on the potential legitimacy of the 2022 election if the election reform bills are not passed—and of course, they failed to pass,” the CNN anchor noted before airing Biden’s comments.
“I am not saying it is going to be legit,” Tapper added, quoting the president. “I mean, he’s not saying that it’s going to be legitimate. That is pretty clear.”
The Biden flack said the president’s “intention” wasn’t to predict that the 2022 midterm elections wouldn’t be legitimate. Instead, according to Psaki, Biden was “trying to convey” the efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.
“We need to be clear-eyed about that possibility or the effort to try to do that and educate voters, make sure they know what their rights are,” she continued. “That is what our focus will go on moving forward.”
Tapper, however, wasn’t satisfied with Psaki’s canned response.
“He was directly tying the legitimacy of the November elections with the election reform bills that failed last night. He was asked a clear question and said it depends,” he retorted before playing another clip of Biden’s press conference remarks.
“I mean, isn’t the correct answer [to] ‘if this isn’t passed do you believe the upcoming election will be fairly conducted and legitimate,’ isn’t the correct answer, ‘Yes, it will be fairly conducted and legitimate?’” Tapper then pressed the White House spokesperson.
“That is his view, Jake,” Psaki replied.
After appealing to Tapper’s “extensive reporting” on the Jan. 6 insurrection and Trump’s election lies, Psaki again said Biden was “trying to convey” that “voters need to be clear-eyed and need to be aware and educated about what is facing them.” She also said the president was communicating the need for voter education and the need for continued voter protections.
Tapper, still, wasn’t buying the press secretary’s explanation.
“So, I get there are efforts on the state level—this is also what the president was trying to tie it to—efforts on the state level to make it more difficult to vote. Some of that is no doubt borne from the ‘Big Lie.’ Some is nefarious. Some is election officials saying we’re not in the middle of the pandemic, as we were in November 2020,” the veteran journalist declared.
“My bigger question is, if we’re saying that there is no election that’s legitimate if there are efforts to suppress the vote, then when has there ever been a legitimate election in this country?” Tapper asked. “Trying to suppress American votes has been going on since the founding of this country.”
Psaki once more claimed “that’s not what we’re saying,” insisting that Americans “should be confident in the protections we are going to continue to enforce.” At the same time, she said it was “not long ago” when Trump tried to reverse Biden’s election victory.
“That is different than the effort to suppress the vote. We need to fight against both,” she noted.
“But he didn’t say the elections are going to be legitimate and I’m going to be there making sure they are legitimate and we’re going to fight and you need to turn out to vote,” Tapper shot back. “He basically refused to say that, definitively, they’ll be legitimate.”
He further pointed out that Vice-President Kamala Harris also wouldn’t say future election results will be legit in a Thursday morning interview. Instead, Harris pivoted to criticism of the Senate’s failure to pass voting rights legislation.
“So I hear what you’re saying, but you do not seem to be on the same page as the president and vice president,” he flatly stated.
After moving on to the criticism Biden has received for indicating America would be fine with a “minor incursion” by Russia—another issue Psaki has spent Thursday trying to clean up—Tapper wrapped up the grilling by offering an olive branch.
“White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, earning her paycheck this week,” he concluded. “Thank you so much.”