Psaki defends giving sketchy info on raid by using terrorists as benchmark: ‘And ISIS is providing accurate information?’

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.

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.

“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.

State Department spokesman Ned Price was reportedly also questioned at the White House about the strike.

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.

Meanwhile, Psaki’s response to legitimate questions about the U.S. claims ignited backlash on Twitter:

Frieda Powers


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