White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended President Biden’s “Neanderthal thinking” comment he made when lashing out on Republican governors in their decision they recently made this week by rolling back its coronavirus business restrictions and lifted their statewide mask mandates.
Psaki was asked during Thursday’s White House daily briefing whether it was productive for the president to use the “language that he used” the previous day in comparing Republican Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Tate Reeves of Mississippi to a “Neanderthal” as Biden has often claimed he would unite not divide.
Psaki asserts that Biden’s gaffe remark was likening the governor’s decision to Neanderthal “behavior” to describe the “reflection of his frustration,” over those flouting COVID-19 guidance and was not comparing the GOP state leaders to the now-defunct ancient species.
“The behavior of a Neanderthal, just to be very clear, the behavior of,” Psaki said. “I think the President, what everybody saw yesterday was a reflection of his frustration and exasperation, which I think many American people have.”
Psaki also reiterated that Biden “simply” asked Americans to wear a mask for the first 100 days of his presidency and noted they still have around 60 days left in his request. Thursday marks the 44th day into Biden’s presidency.
“He believes that with more than half a million Americans’ lives lost, with families that continue to suffer, that it’s imperative that people listen across the country, whether they live in a red state or blue state, to the guidance of public health experts. Those include many, many people in Mississippi, in Texas, in Ohio, Florida, and every state across the country. But he believes that if we’re going to get this pandemic under control, we need to follow public health guidelines,” Psaki said.
On Wednesday, Biden criticized Texas and Mississippi decision for recently lifting statewide mask mandates, calling it a “big mistake” and blasted the two Republican governors action as “Neanderthal thinking.”
“I think it’s a big mistake. Look, I hope everybody’s realized by now, these masks make a difference. We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we’re able to get vaccines in people’s arms,” Biden said during a meeting with bipartisan lawmakers in the Oval Office.”The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime, everything’s fine, take off your mask. Forget it. It still matters.”
Abbott announced earlier this week he’s moving to “open Texas 100 percent” and would rescind restrictions on business occupancy and the statewide mandate mask order. Reeves also announced that he is lifting its state mask mandate and allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity. Both governors cited the declining number of new Covid-19 cases in their states and the increasing availability of vaccines as reasons for ending the restrictions.
Biden’s remark prompted sharp responses from both governors, while also sparking outrage from Republican lawmakers.
Shortly after the president remarks to reporters, Reeves clapped back in a tweet, saying that Mississippians don’t “need handlers,” and they can “decide how to protect themselves.”
“President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is ‘neanderthal thinking.’ Mississippians don’t need handlers,” Reeves wrote in a tweet. “As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”
President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is “neanderthal thinking.”
Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.
— Tate Reeves (@tatereeves) March 3, 2021
Abbott also returned fire at the president, blaming a migration crisis at the US-Mexico border for increasing viral spread in his state
“The Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities. The Biden Admin. must IMMEDIATELY end this callous act that exposes Texans & Americans to COVID,” Abbott tweeted.
The Biden Administration is recklessly releasing hundreds of illegal immigrants who have COVID into Texas communities.
The Biden Admin. must IMMEDIATELY end this callous act that exposes Texans & Americans to COVID.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) March 3, 2021
Psaki pushed back strongly on the Texas Governor’s response that the border crisis is causing COVID-positive migrants to expose Texans, claiming it was “not factual.”
“We’re about facts around here. That is not factual,” Psaki said. “When migrants are placed in alternatives to detention, our policy is for COVID-19 testing to be done at the state and local level and with the help of NGOs and local governments.”
She added with clarification, “Our approach and our policy is to work with local governments, work with NGOs to ensure these migrants are tested. And that can take place, in that steps for isolation, quarantining, and medical care can be taken should that be needed.”
When asked about whether the White House would consider recommending people not travel to states like Texas and Mississippi like Biden once considered implementing in Florida last month as a result of those states lifting public health restrictions too quickly, Psaki as usual deflected in responded directly.
“We are going to continue to use every method of the bully pulpit at our disposal to convey directly to people living across the country, including in many of these states, that mask-wearing, social distancing getting access to the vaccine is the path to go back to normal,” Psaki said.