In another blunt exchange with reporters on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki seemed to accuse the press of believing the enemy.
Psaki was asked about the U.S. military raid in Syria that killed an ISIS leader while aboard Air Force One. Claims about how women and children also died during the raid have raised questions about the U.S. military operation, but Psaki met one inquiry asking for “evidence” with a bristling response.
ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi died in the U.S. raid but President Joe Biden said Thursday that the ISIS leader detonated a suicide bomb, thus killing those around him including six children and four women.
“As our troops approached to capture the terrorist, in a final act of desperate cowardice, with no regard for the lives of his own family or others in the building, he chose to blow himself up,” the president said at the White House.
But with memories of the U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan last August, in which civilians and children were killed, there was understandable “skepticism” about the U.S. military claims, as reporters pressed Psaki.
Psaki to reporter asking about those “skeptical” about civilians killed in raid: “Skeptical of the U.S. military’s assessment when they went and took out… the leader of ISIS, that they are not providing accurate information, and ISIS is providing accurate information?” pic.twitter.com/7g90mc1x1U
— Tommy moderna-vaX-Topher (@tommyxtopher) February 3, 2022
The press secretary deferred to the Department of Defense to do a “final assessment” when she was asked for “clarity” about whether the civilian casualties in Syria were the result of the suicide bomb or military crossfire.
“I know the U.S. has put out its statement that, you know, they detonated the bomb themselves,” NPR White House Correspondent Ayesha Rascoe asked.
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) February 3, 2022
“But will the U.S. provide any evidence? Because there may be people that are skeptical of the events that took place and what happened to the civilians,” she added.
“Skeptical of the U.S. military’s assessment when they went and took out an ISIS terror–the leader of ISIS?” Psaki asked.
“That they are not providing accurate information?” she pressed, with a mocking tone as the reporter confirmed “yes.”
“And ISIS is providing accurate information?” Psaki added.
“Well, not ISIS, but, I mean, the U.S. has not always been straightforward about what happens with civilians. And I mean, that is a fact,” Rascoe stated.
“Well, as you know, there’s an extensive process that the Department of Defense undergoes. The President made clear from the beginning, at every point in this process, that doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties was his priority and his preference,” Psaki finally said.
I think he was wearing a vest that exploded. I also saw reported that 6 children were killed.
Imagine Trump doing this. The media would say he did it to distract from his failing presidency and as a result he murdered 6 kids.
— Rich Weinstein (@phillyrich1) February 3, 2022
State Department spokesman Ned Price was reportedly also questioned at the White House about the strike.
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 3, 2022
The exchange with Psaki set off criticism of the White House for continuing to downplay the lack of transparency and for accusing critics of either buying into or spreading enemy propaganda. Lawmakers from the president’s own party sent a letter last month urging the president to address the military drone program.
Congressional Democrats led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Chris Murphy of Connecticut said they could no longer accept “a continuation of the status quo that has repeatedly resulted in the needless deaths of innocent civilians.”
Psaki pushed back at the criticism in a tweet Thursday.
— Edgar (@EdBonillaB) February 4, 2022
Meanwhile, Psaki’s response to legitimate questions about the U.S. claims ignited backlash on Twitter:
Reporters today asked for evidence for the USG’s claims about the Syria strike and how civilians died, and Jen Psaki implied they must believe ISIS — just as she implied anyone against US intervention in Ukraine is pro-Russian.
Do you see why neocons are so comfortable as Dems? pic.twitter.com/pFbdqGVlWC
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 3, 2022
It’s the job of reporters to ask for proof to back up government statements. Doing so does not mean one believes propaganda put out by U.S. adversaries. I imagine these officials know that. Are they simply throwing out these accusations in an effort to deter further Qs? 6/6
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) February 3, 2022
Psaki and Price are setting up a false choice here. Either take what they say at face value, or side with ISIS and Russia.
These are legitimate questions and their answers are unacceptable https://t.co/SKw30Yaw9u
— Dave Brown (@dave_brown24) February 3, 2022
This is kind of disturbing of Psaki to assert. She’s basically saying “if you don’t assume we’re telling the truth then you support ISIS”
— Umwhat (@UmWhatDidyou) February 3, 2022
Call me a skeptic then, bc I cannot think of one instance in which I believed the US military was providing accurate information related to civilian deaths
— Shawn Concord NH (@NHWharfRat) February 3, 2022
I’m old enough to remember last August when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said an airstrike on a car in Kabul that killed 10 civilians was a “righteous” strike that killed terrorists. Three weeks later, they admitted it was a “terrible mistake.” @ayesharascoe
— Dion Nissenbaum (@DionNissenbaum) February 3, 2022
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