Jen Psaki likens Fox News reporters to Russian and Chinese propagandists

  • White House press secretary gives interview to CNN
  • Says job is to make sure public gets ‘accurate information’

Joe Biden’s White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, has likened reporters from Fox News and other rightwing outlets to “representatives of the Russian and Chinese media asking questions directed by their government … propaganda pushers” to be treated with extreme caution.

Psaki was speaking to CNN’s Reliable Sources in an interview broadcast on Sunday. Her relations with the media have been smoother – and her briefings more frequent – than any predecessor in the Trump administration. But clashes with reporters including Peter Doocy of Fox News have made headlines.

Last week, one such interaction involved questions about Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser. Republicans and rightwing reporters have seized on the publication of emails sent by Fauci at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Asked by Doocy if Fauci should be “held accountable” for “saying one thing in email and then coming to this microphone and saying something else”, Psaki called Fauci “a renowned public servant” who has “overseen management of multiple global health crises”.

“Attacks launched on him are certainly something we wouldn’t stand by,” she said, adding: “I am going to let Dr Fauci speak to his own defence about his emails from 17 months ago before this president even took office.”

Doocy asked about US funding for Chinese research laboratories, a key part of Republican attacks on Fauci as the theory that Covid-19 escaped such a lab gains renewed attention.

Psaki deflected the question.

Doocy asked: “Can you imagine any circumstance where the president would ever fire him?”

“No,” said Psaki, turning to another reporter, who she told: “Go ahead.”

On CNN, Psaki said: “The things that get under my skin are when the premise of a question is based on inaccurate information, misleading information. That can be frustrating. I try not to show it too much, try not to let people see me sweat too much. But occasionally I have a moment of humanity.”

Host Brian Stelter pointed out that most questions “based on falsehoods come from brands like Newsmax, which does sometimes get called on the briefing room. I know a lot of liberals don’t want Fox News to get called on. I think they should be, but … why do you call on Fox News and Newsmax?”

Psaki said: “My point of view and more importantly, the president’s point of view, is that the story is not about me or a debate with news outlets. The story is about the plans of the administration and what we’re trying to project to the American people.

“And when he pledged to govern for all Americans, that means talking to a range of outlets – liberal, conservative, people who have different areas of interest. So that’s exactly what I try to do every day.”

Stelter asked why some viewers celebrate when the press secretary is seen to “shut down” a questioner such as Doocy.

“I also have a responsibility not to allow the briefing room to become a forum for propaganda or a forum for pushing forward falsehoods or inaccurate information,” Psaki said.

“My best preparation for that was actually serving as the state department spokesperson when there were representatives of the Russian and the Chinese media in the briefing room asking me questions that were directed by their government.

“So we see that from time to time in the briefing room, not every single day at all, but I have a responsibility to the public to make sure they’re getting accurate information and the premises of questions that are propaganda-pushing are not giving them inaccurate information.”

Psaki also defended the administration against criticism for holding only one presidential press conference – “That may be driven more by the media than it is by the American public” – and suggest some reporters’ “muscles have atrophied a little bit” when it comes to understanding the realities of governance.

Fox News gleefully rounded up conservative criticism of the interview. Verdicts included “subservient, obsequious” and “bootlicking”.

In his Reliable Sources email, Stelter said his goal had been “to talk big-picture … and to get personal, beyond the news-of-day questions that get asked at the briefings.”

Contributor

Martin Pengelly

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
How Jen Psaki adroitly dodges Fox News’s verbal grenades at press briefings
The duels between Peter Doocy of Fox News and Psaki offer insights into rightwing critiques of Biden and his strategy for neutralizing them

David Smith in Washington

15, Aug, 2021 @6:00 AM

Article image
Psaki: we engage with Fox News in hope viewers might listen to medical experts
White House press secretary says network is ‘still a platform for us to communicate with the public’

Martin Pengelly

26, Jul, 2021 @12:01 PM

Article image
As the White House changes hands, so will Fox News’ support of the presidency
After four years of slavishly promoting the president and White House, rightwing media will turn an abrupt about-face

Adam Gabbatt in New York

27, Dec, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
How Fox News conquered Facebook
The channel attracts an ageing, angry crowd on its page, resulting in a high number of reactions, comments and shares – and that’s good for Trump

Adam Gabbatt in New York

06, Jul, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Joe Biden condemns Georgia voting law: 'This is Jim Crow in the 21st century' – as it happened
President said Republican legislators in Georgia and across the US are trying to make it harder to vote

Maanvi Singh (now), Joan E Greve and Martin Belam (earlier)

27, Mar, 2021 @12:04 AM

Article image
Roger Ailes' greatest legacy at Fox News? Donald Trump
Ailes, who died Thursday at the age of 77, left Fox News under a cloud. But his dominance over politics and the media will loom long into Trump’s presidency

Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington

19, May, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
Fox News host Tucker Carlson praises Elizabeth Warren's economic policies
Conservative news show anchor praises the Democratic 2020 election candidate for promoting ‘economic patriotism’

Jessica Glenza in New York

06, Jun, 2019 @4:13 PM

Article image
Fox News: how an anti-Obama fringe set the stage for Trump
The election of America’s first black president marked a tipping point on the road to becoming a mouthpiece for Trump

Sabrina Siddiqui in Washington

19, Mar, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
Bernie Sanders draws enthusiastic cheers in surprising Fox News town hall
The setup looked potentially hostile but became a free, hourlong commercial for the Sanders candidacy, broadcast to Fox viewers

Tom McCarthy in New York

16, Apr, 2019 @2:53 PM

Article image
Michael Wolff: Murdoch hates Trump but loves Fox News money more
In book, Wolff says that Murdoch personally approved network’s early call of Arizona, which signalled Trump’s defeat

Martin Pengelly in New York

19, Jul, 2021 @1:40 PM