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White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden was referring to former President Donald Trump‘s tweets when he called Trump ‘xenophobic’ on the heels of Trump implementing the travel ban last year with China.
‘What the president was critical of was the way that the former president put out, I believe, a xenophobic tweet and what he called the coronavirus and who he directed it at,’ Psaki said at Monday’s press briefing. ‘The president has not been critical of travel restrictions, we have put those in place ourselves in the spring,’ she added.
Psaki was responding to Fox News’ Peter Doocy, who also asked her why the president was spotted maskless while out shopping in Nantucket this weekend after Biden said Monday that Americans could protect themselves from Omicron from wearing masks inside and getting vaccinated.
‘The president is somebody who follows the recommendations and the advice of the CDC,’ Psaki said. ‘I don’t know what the circumstances were at that particular moment.’
Doocy first pounced on comments Biden made in the past, which could make him look like a hypocrite for his decision this weekend to bar entry to most travelers from eight African countries, where the new Omicron COVID-19 variant is prevalent.
On the same day Trump announced he was banning travel from China in January 2020, Biden appeared at an Iowa campaign stop and spoke of Trump’s ‘hysterical xenophobia’ and ‘fear mongering.’
Biden took to the stage about 15 minutes after the ban was announced, with his campaign later denying he was linking the two things.
In an op-ed several days earlier, however, Biden knocked Trump’s response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, when Trump was a private person and Biden was vice president.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden was referring to former President Donald Trump’s tweets when he called Trump ‘xenophobic’ on the heels of Trump implementing the travel ban last year with China
Fox News’ Peter Doocy also asked Psaki about Biden not wearing his mask to shop indoors while visiting Nantucket over the Thanksgiving break
Biden, however, long criticized Trump’s use of the ‘Chinese Virus’ to refer to COVID-19
‘I remember how Trump sought to stoke fear and stigma during the 2014 Ebola epidemic,’ Biden wrote for USA Today, adding that Trump wrongly backed ‘reactionary travel bans that would only have made things worse.’
At the time, Trump had tweeted ‘close down the flights from Ebola infected areas right now.’
Several times during the campaign, Trump went after Biden for suggesting it was racist to cut off travel with China during the beginning of the pandemic.
‘When I closed he said I should not have closed,’ Trump said when the two men debated each other in October 2020. ‘He said this is a terrible thing, you are a xenophobe, I think he called me racist. Now he says I should have closed it earlier.’
Biden responded by saying Trump had taken the jab out of context.
‘I did not say either of those things,’ Biden said. ‘I talked about his xenophobia in a different context, not about closing the border to Chinese coming to the United States.’
As Psaki said Monday, Biden was long critical of Trump using ‘China virus’ to refer to COVID.
Doocy then asked Psaki about Biden wearing his mask under his chin while shopping at the Nantucket store Murray’s Toggery Shop, which had ‘Required: Face Covering’ signs on the windows.
Psaki was asked about previous comments then candidate Joe Biden (left) made the same day former President Donald Trump (right) announced the travel ban with China. Biden’s campaign and later Biden said he was referencing previous comments Trump had made, not explicitly calling Trump’s travel ban ‘xenophobic’
Biden was captured at Murray’s Toggery Shop, which had a sign that said ‘Required Face Covering,’ with his face mask under his chin, while he carried around a chocolate milkshake
Biden was carrying a chocolate milkshake at the time.
Nantucket island brought back an indoor mask mandate as of November 18.
Nantucket has a fairly low number of cases, but sewage from the island showed a prevalence of the virus, which triggered a return to masking indoors.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends vaccinated people wear masks indoors if they’re in an area of high virus transmission.
Biden told Americans Monday they should wear masks indoors as he addressed the Omicron variant at the White House.
‘I encourage everyone to wear a mask when they’re indoors in a crowded circumstance, like we are right now,’ he told the dozen or so reporters covering his remarks. ‘And unless you’re eating or speaking at a microphone.’
But even amid the pressing nature of the new variant, Biden misstated the name of the variant. ‘It’s called the Omnicron,’ he said, inserting an extra ‘n’ – an error his coronavirus advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was standing in the background, also committed on Sunday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned the new variant, poses a ‘severe’ risk to the world’s pandemic recovery and the odds of it being infectious enough to spread quickly are ‘very high’. Hours after the speech the CDC strengthened their guidance to recommend that all adults get a booster.
Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa but is thought to have originated in Botswana, is the most-mutated form of Covid yet found and has been declared a ‘variant of concern’ by the WHO because early data suggests it is more infectious than the Delta strain.
South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the variant is fueling a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations in hot spots within the country. Gauteng, the province where the COVID-19 variant was first detected has suffered a more than 300 percent increase in virus related hospitalizations this week.
The president fielded a few questions after his remarks, where he called the new variant ‘Omnicron,’ adding an ‘n’
The number of children hospitalized with Covid has also risen sharply around South African’s capital city of Pretoria, though the NICD said not all are at risk of severe disease and some cases could just be out of an abundance of caution.
‘Sooner or later we’re going to see new cases of this variant here in the United States,’ Biden predicted, a day after it had been identified in Canada.
But he cautioned: ‘This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,’ and said no additional measures were currently needed.
Asked if lockdowns were off the table, Biden responded: ‘Yes, for now … If people are vaccinated and wear their masks, there’s no need for lockdowns.’
However, Moderna’s CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC just today that he’s worried the vaccines currently available may not do enough to protect people from the newly-mutated virus – the antibodies Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine generates to fight against it could be eight times lower against Omicron.
Biden was pictured shopping at Murray’s Toggery Shop in Nantucket without his mask on Saturday, despite the island’s mask requirement for indoor facilities.
The fully-vaccinated president was caught flaunting the health guidelines just hours after he was ‘fully briefed’ on the concerning new variant. The island brought back its indoor mask mandates earlier this month at a town meeting on November 18. They made the decision to return to indoor masking because scientists found a prevalence of the virus in island sewage.
On Monday Biden also praised South African officials for reporting information about the new variant, but said the travel ban the U.S. imposed was meant to ‘buy time’ to give more people time to get vaccinated. South African officials have fumed that the UK, the U.S. and other nations slapped the travel warning on immediately after they brought forward the new information – likely saddling the nation with economic harm.
But Biden isn’t pushing new travel restrictions, after the U.S. shut down travel from seven south African nations following initial reports out of South Africa. Those restrictions took effect today.
Also on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the limited decision to restrict travel during her regular press briefing – insisting the US wasn’t looking to ‘punish’ any other nation.