The thorniest part of Jean-Pierre’s job came predictably from a press struggling to create conflict by wondering aloud about why the Biden administration hasn’t told them that the intelligence community is investigating the origins of COVID-19.
"This is not about me. This is not about any of us. And anytime I’m behind here—and I know you’ve heard Jen [Psaki] say this as well—we are going to be truthful, we’re going to be transparent, and that’s the way I believe the president would want us to communicate to the American people."
On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced publicly that the president was directing a more focused investigation on the part of the U.S. intelligence apparatus into the origins of COVID-19. It’s important to point out that over the last few weeks, the right wing in the country has worked very hard to create the idea that because the initial reports and scientific analysis during most of 2020 said it was very unlikely that the 2019 novel coronavirus originated in a laboratory only to now say that the origin is still being investigated, that this means something nefarious on the part of Joe Biden, Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates, and liberals in general.
Psaki has had to do the difficult job of withholding classified information from the press while also combating the racist narrative being pressed by conservative media around the ongoing investigation into COVID-19. Psaki’s line has been to point to the Biden administration’s call for the international community to put pressure on China by collectively investigating the global health issue of the COVID-19 pandemic. The subtext has always been—to anyone with even the tiniest understanding of anything in the history of anything—that the United States’ intelligence community was obviously investigating the origins of COVID-19.
The concept that the United States intelligence community just stopped investigating and trying to gather intelligence on a global pandemic that has greatly exposed the U.S.’ infrastructural, health, and economic fragility is bonkers. Psaki not answering questions about our country’s covert operations to find out exactly what happened by potentially using clandestinely placed assets in, let’s say, China, isn’t strange. Jean-Pierre gave the most diplomatic answer possible when the press attempted to pit her against Psaki in regards to this not really new information.
The New York Times’ White House correspondent, Michael Shear, tried this angle by jumping on Jean-Pierre’s previous response in saying that nothing had really changed here with the announcement by the Biden administration, that the intelligence community was doing the thing that the intelligence community has always done. Asserting that “two things have changed,” Shear went on to ask:
SHEAR: One is that Jen [Psaki] spent much of the last week in response to the questions focusing entirely on international investigations led by the WHO [World Health Organization], and dismissing the idea raised by a lot of us in the room about why not have the United States conduct its own investigation. And she continually referred back to the WHO is the proper place for this.
Maybe realizing that there isn’t a question in this and in saying it out loud maybe, just maybe, there aren’t two things that have changed. Shear continues into some kind of question, one that none of the press seem to have the bandwidth to follow up on.
SHEAR: So it seems like there has been a change. There also seems like there's been a change in the president's view of the possibility of a lab accident. And the statement seems to elevate that possibility and is it, and gives it more credence, at least, not saying that it is certain but that it has the credence that deserves a full investigation.
The statement Shear is referring to begins with Biden saying that the Trump administration’s failures to get “our inspectors on the ground in those early months will always hamper any investigation into the origin of COVID-19.” It also says, “I received that report earlier this month, and asked for additional follow-up. As of today, the U.S. Intelligence Community has ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’ but has not reached a definitive conclusion on this question.” Those two scenarios are the ones that have always been the two scenarios: animal to human evolution, or lab accident. So nothing has changed. But Shear has to ask a question after reminding everyone why Psaki was mum on a possibly classified intelligence investigation the past week.
SHEAR: And so I guess trying to get those questions that others have asked, what has changed in those two things? What was it that brought the president and his White House to a different place now than it did even in the recent …
Jean-Pierre does a stellar job here of not falling for what was press corp bait for the last administration: in-fighting amongst craven scam artists. She explained: “This was something that was ongoing,” and the only thing that “the WHO doing their thing and the IC [Intelligence Community] doing what they’re doing currently, is not mutually exclusive.” Shear followed up, saying it was not “fair” to Jean-Pierre to say why Psaki gave an answer that didn’t include the new information released today … when Psaki had answered the question last week without this new information being available. This interaction gives us a preview into the side of Jean-Pierre we will likely see a lot of as obvious answers are given to pantomimed, incredulous press questions:
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Michael, I would say to you: This is something, I get your question. You've been doing this longer than many of us. As you know, we don't speak about everything that is being reviewed. Especially … something like this that was actually classified. And it takes time to declassify something so that we can share with all of you. So that is part of it as well. We're talking about classified information, we’re talking about something that the intelligence community was working on, that we don’t normally, every time, we don't put out there. Thank you, Michael.
So far, the Biden administration has put out two people in front of the White house press corps who don’t seem like cartoon informercial spokesmodels.