Friday’s White House press briefing went for 86 minutes, but it had fireworks on everything from the border crisis to climate to the Israel-Hamas war. Most notably, Fox’s Peter Doocy was only one of two reporters to ask the National Security Council’s John Kirby over the bombshell that roughly a dozen United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) workers — the group responsible for U.N.-directed aid in Gaza — may have participated in Hamas’s October 7 terror attack on Israel.
A Biden potted plant, CNN’s Arlette Saenz was surprisingly the other reporter and went first with an open-ended request for comment. Doocy came along a few minutes later and called out Kirby for having said earlier this month (January 4, specifically) that “you can’t hold [UNRWA] accountable for the depredations of Hamas.”
Asked what he thought now, Kirby had a look of eating crow and fretted: “[I]t certainly looks as if there is cause to be concerned about the actions of some of the members of UNRWA…but that does not and nor should it impugn the entire agency” because their “important work” has “helped save literally thousands of lives in Gaza”.
Doocy was incensed Kirby wasn’t more outraged:
DOOCY: That’s bad, though! If there are 12 people who are accused of —
KIRBY: It’s bad! It’s bad if there’s one! It’s bad if there’s one!
DOOCY: — that’s bad! And the U.S. is giving them money, how much money?
KIRBY: We have suspended the — they have suspended —
DOOCY: How much before the suspension?
KIRBY: — I don’t have the dollar figures here, Peter.
After Kirby told Doocy he’d “get back to you,” Doocy ripped the White House as irresponsible: “[W]ho does this White House vet because we know that people coming across the southern border are not vetted. Now we know that people that are getting hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. money are not being vetted. So, who do you guys check out?”
Kirby called it “interesting” to “combin[ed] the two” and scolded Doocy for doing so since the border “has nothing to do and you know it has nothing to do with UNRWA and Gaza.”
He also offered a hilarious answer about the border: “[I]t’s not like we don’t have a process at the border, and there is a challenge there, and the President does want to get more Border Patrol agents. But this idea that just there’s no vetting and there’s no proper immigration enforcement going on at the border just is not — does not comport with reality.”
Doocy’s last question set Kirby off (click “expand”):
DOOCY: But up until today, the U.S. policy then has been we don’t negotiate with terrorists, but we will give them hundreds of millions of dollars?
KIRBY: Come on now. That’s — that’s conflating here. This is not — you’re — you’re — that’s like saying the whole UNRWA is a terrorist organization. You know who is a terrorist organization? Hamas, not UNWRA. Now, if they have — if the investigation proves that, in this case, I think it’s about a dozen employees were assisting Hamas and even to the point of, maybe even, you know, involved in hostage taking, then absolutely they need to be held to account and we will — although we’ve already suspended any additional allocations to UNRWA, we’ll certainly consider additional, you know, what it — depending on the investigation, whether that requires any additional changes in the way we support UNRWA going forward.
Prior to Kirby, White House climate adviser Ali Zaidi took questions about President Biden’s announcement of a ban on certain liquified natural gas (LNG) exports.
CBS’s Weijia Jiang had the obvious question of why now and The Washington Post’s Toluse Olorunnipa correctly sniffed out the fact that this move was to suck up to the demands of far-left climate activists Biden needs to keep wedded to his administration (click “expand”):
JIANG: So why is this pause coming now and not on day one? It’s almost three years into the President’s term and, since he took office, the administration has approved thousands of oil and gas projects. So, why didn’t you take this pause on day one to do all the critical analysis you just talked about?
ZAIDI: So, great question. Um, the Dept of Energy — this analysis that the agency is undertaking — it’s not unprecedented. It’s routine and the analytical basis for these decisions — the economic analysis, the environmental analysis — is, at this point, in most cases, about five years old. We’ve also seen the market changed dramatically over this period of time. Um, if you look just at the United States, which has now become the number one exporter…[W]e’ve seen change is our evolving understanding of the environmental implications of this. Look, over the last 10 years, for example, we have started to really understand the potency and threat that methane presents to the environment. Methane is this super polluting greenhouse gas 80 times more potent than C02. And in some instances, some scientists believe that it’s represents about half a degree of the warming we’re seeing here…I think this will inform how we approach this program going forward.
OLORUNNIPA: To what extent is this a response to activists who have expressed some displeasure with the President’s overall record on climate so far?
ZAIDI: You know, young people have been such a central part of the coalition that really helped, I think, the President imagine this climate agenda…that, I think, young people are excited about. One that’s not about just getting sucked into the doom and gloom of the sky, turning orange and the smoke that we breathe into our lungs, but of what we can see together…[Y]oung people know they’ve got in Joe Biden, a partner, a ally, a leader who is taking on this crisis and unlocking the…massive, massive opportunity that sits on the other side of that.
OLORUNNIPA: And what’s your message to activists who say you have to — you should move beyond the pause to actually reject some of these projects?
ZAIDI: Look, if the question is, does the science urge us to find every single way to move as quickly as we can, faster and faster each day to take on the climate crisis? It does. It’s code red. That’s what the scientists say…[W]e’ve been creative, innovative, and, I think, intrepid in finding ways to move faster and faster in taking on this crisis.
Fox Business’s Edward Lawrence had the best question of this portion as he noted this ban could “push countries specifically in Asia to turn to coal plants when they can’t get that increased LNG”:
FBN’s @EdwardLawrence: “So, 32 oil and natural gas industry groups have signed onto a letter saying that the pause sends a wrong message to the allies, but also that it will push countries specifically in Asia to turn to coal plants when they can’t get that increased LNG, you… pic.twitter.com/7OHUk6gURM
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) January 26, 2024
During Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s turn, the AP’s Aamer Madhani actually stepped up and asked if Biden will finally visit East Palestine, Ohio as it’s nearly been a year since the toxic train derailment.
Madhani also questioned whether, if he won’t go, this shows East Palestine is “a hindrance” to Biden and/or “a sign of almost insensitivity”. Not surprisingly, Jean-Pierre offered a lengthy answer resembling many of her previous answers on the topic (see here, here, and here for examples).
Fast-forwarding to the end of the briefing, Andrew Feinberg of The Independent spent over five minutes demanding Biden federalize the Texas National Guard and all other state National Guards dispatched by their respective governor to help Texas control the southern border.
WATCH: Far-left reporter @AndrewFeinberg of The @Independent repeatedly blasts KJP from the left, demanding President Biden nationalize the Texas National Guard and any state National Guard sent by their governor to assist Texas at the border.
By doing so, those guardsmen that… pic.twitter.com/shT8Jcktvg
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) January 26, 2024
To see the relevant transcript from the January 26 briefing (with more noteworthy questions, including one from taxpayer-funded Voice of America kvetching that Biden’s “really out of touch” with the rest of the world by daring to support Israel), click here.