Pressed about President Biden’s claim in a CNN town hall that he’s been to the US-Mexico border, White House press secretary Jen Psaki hung her answer on a technicality — insisting he drove “through the border” while on the campaign trail on 2008.
During Friday’s daily press briefing, Psaki was pressed by Fox News’ Peter Doocy on when the last time was that Biden had visited the border, as the outlet recently reported it was unable to find evidence of him doing so.
“As you may have seen, there’s been reporting that he did drive through the border when he was on the campaign trail in 2008,” Psaki said. “And he is certainly familiar with the fact — and it stuck with him — with that fact that in El Paso, the border goes right through the center of town.”
Illegal immigration into the US hit an at least 35-year record in fiscal 2021, the Washington Post reported this week, with about 1.7 million arrests.
Psaki emphasized that Biden has “worked on these issues throughout his entire career,” despite appearing to have not purposely visited the southern border since.
“He went to Mexico and Central America 10 times to address border issues and talk about what we can do to reduce the number of migrants who are coming to the border,” she added, before slamming the previous administration.
“He does not need a visit to the border to know what a mess was left by the last administration.”
Doocy pushed back.
“Does that count as a visit? He said, ‘I’ve been there before’ — you’re saying he drove by for a few minutes — does that count?” the reporter asked incredulously.
“What do you — what is the root cause?” Psaki fumbled to respond. “Where are people coming from who are coming to the border, Peter? I’m asking you a question because I think people should understand the context.”
Doocy followed again, “He said, ‘I guess I should go down.’ So does he think that he needs a photo op?” he asked, referring to the president.
“Okay, I’ll answer it for you,” Psaki continued. “People come from Central America and Mexico to go to the border. The president has been to those countries 10 times to talk about border issues.”
Doocy pressed on, asking Psaki if the president is focused on a “photo op,” given his comments during CNN’s live town hall Thursday, when Biden said, “I’ve been there before and I haven’t — I mean, I know it well. I guess I should go down. But the whole point of it is I haven’t had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down.”
“The president does not believe a photo op is the same as solutions,” Psaki said.
In their exchange, the press secretary tried to deflect attention back to the Trump administration, slamming its immigration policy that she said “resulted in separating kids from their parents” and building a border wall that “cost billions of dollars for taxpayers.”
During Thursday’s town hall, Biden blamed not having enough time for why he has not visited the border amid a massive surge of migrants crossing this year that has resulted in the highest levels of arrests since 1986.
“I’ve been spending time going around looking at $900 billion worth of damage done by hurricanes and floods and weather and traveling around the world. But I plan on — now my wife, Jill, has been down. She’s been on both sides of the river, she’s seen the circumstances there, she’s looked into those places,” said Biden, who has found time to spend parts of 70 days during his first year so far in his home state of Delaware.