Biden slips on baby formula, spox can’t clean it up: ‘I became aware of this problem sometime in April’

President Joe Biden has admitted that he didn’t become aware of the severity of the baby formula shortage until April, despite the CEOs of major baby formula manufacturers having warned him a severe shortage was inevitable.

The admission was made during a question-and-answer session Wednesday afternoon with reporters following a press conference on the baby formula crisis.

A reporter specifically asked the president about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s culpability in the crisis: “Mr. President, will anyone at the FDA be held accountable for how they handled this?”

Some critics blame the FDA for the ongoing crisis because they shut down a major Abbott Labs baby formula plant in February, despite Abbott reportedly producing 40 percent of the formula sold in the states.

The president replied by reframing the question.

“The question is whether or not … this could have been moved quicker. You know, the question you always love to ask me is, on every single thing: Why didn’t you act sooner?” he said.

He then answered the re-framed question (versus the reporter’s actual question.)

“Well, I don’t think anyone anticipated the impact of the shutdown of … the Abbott facility. And it was accurately shut down because … the formula was questioned, in terms of its purity. And so, once we learned of the extent of it and how broad it was, we kicked everything into gear. And I think we’re … on the way to be able to completely solve the problem,” he said.

This prompted pushback, with a reporter asking, “Excuse me, Mr. President, didn’t those CEOs just tell you that they understood it would have a very big impact?

By “it,” the reporter meant shutting down the Abbott plant.

The president responded by admitting that he’d failed to “understand” the impact of the FDA’s decision-making.

They did, but I didn’t. … I became aware of this problem sometime in … early April, about how intense it was,” he said.

His reply was so jarring that even MJ Lee of CNN took note:

Questioned later Wednesday afternoon about the president’s admission, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pleaded ignorance.

“I was in my office. I did not actually hear what the president said. I do not like to speak on something without having a conversation with the president first,” she initially said.

To his credit, CBS’ Ed O’Keefe refused to accept this answer.

“Was someone called here at the White House to say this could be an issue that requires presidential involvement?” he asked Jean-Pierre.

“So I don’t have the timeline on that. All I can tell you [is that] as a whole-of-government approach, we have been working on this since the recall in February,” she replied.

Watch:

Fox News’ Peter Doocy also tried pressing her.

“Who is the person in the West Wing who decided after 6-8 weeks that this baby formula shortage was finally something that somebody should tell the president about?” he asked.

But, like before, she pleaded ignorance.

“I have to go back and talk to the president. I did not hear him take questions or answer any questions to all of you. And so I want to do my due diligence as his spokesperson to make sure that I have a conversation,” the press secretary said.

“What I can tell you is what we have been doing as an administration since Day One of the recall. The actions that we took actually made a difference. DPA [the Defense Production Act] is actually allowing manufacturers to reliably plan for scaling production.”

Watch:

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Vivek Saxena

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