Jean-Pierre Stammers Through Briefing as Reporters Demand Answers on Botched East Palestine Response
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre offered a briefing on the East Palestine derailment and was pelted with criticism over the administration’s botched response. Jean-Pierre struggled to keep up with the stream of questions from reporters, who wanted to know whether Biden planned to travel to East Palestine, whether he was satisfied with the response, and if he had any response to the outraged residents.
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“I know many of you have been covering what has been occurring in Ohio this past couple weeks,” Jean-Pierre told the briefing room. “But I also wanted to give you a brief update on the federal response led by the Environmental Protection Agency to the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.”
Jean-Pierre described the government’s response as a “multi-agency” effort directed by President Biden. She explained to reporters that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had traveled to the scene to meet with officials and touted the government’s response as a success story.
“Is the President satisfied with the pace of the federal response there on the ground?” One reporter asked. “And why has he, so far, decided not to visit?”
Jean-Pierre attempted to dodge the question, saying that Biden had directed the EPA to handle the aftermath of the disaster and that he was receiving regular briefings on the cleanup.
“My question, though, was whether the President was satisfied with that response,” the reporter responded. “Is he?”
“Yes, he is.” Jean-Pierre said.
Reporter: "I'm struggling to understand why the president wouldn't go to East Palestine. Does it simply not meet the bar for a presidential visit?"
Karine Jean-Pierre: "Look I don't … I … it's … I wanna be very clear here. Um. There's no reason to struggle." pic.twitter.com/sMyag0BipO
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) February 23, 2023
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defends the federal response to the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment. When asked, she says President Biden is currently satisfied with the federal response. pic.twitter.com/6QGL21thoh
— CSPAN (@cspan) February 23, 2023
Despite Jean-Pierre’s, and reportedly the president’s, satisfaction with the East Palestine response, Secretary Buttigieg initially took ten days to respond to the disaster. He was beaten to the punch by former president Donald Trump, who visited with the residents of East Palestine a day before the secretary’s arrival.
Jean-Pierre also said that EPA administrator Michael Regan had traveled to the scene but neglected to mention that his first visit was nearly two weeks after the derailment.
Residents of East Palestine have been furious with the administration’s response to the derailment. Joe Biden’s decision to visit Ukraine instead of the Ohio town outraged mayor Trent Conway, who told Fox News,
“Absolutely. That was the biggest slap in the face. That tells you right now he doesn’t care about us.”
“Does the President have any reaction to those comments?” one reporter asked Jean-Pierre. “Has the President spoken to the mayor of East Palestine —or does he have any plans to?”
Jean-Pierre did her best to sidestep the question, reiterating that Biden had spoken to the governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania. The press secretary told the room that the EPA has been on the scene studying the environmental impact of the wreck, but reporters wanted to know whether Biden himself had any plans to travel there.
“Is the President going to go to Ohio, Karine?” one reporter asked.
“Is it in discussion that the President may go there in the near future?” asked another.
“I mean, I think what folks should understand and folks should, I think, feel at ease is that the President has taken this very seriously,” Jean-Pierre said, trying to fend off the questions. After being asked if the East Palestine derailment didn’t “meet the bar” for a presidential visit, Jean-Pierre stammered,
“No, it’s — I — I — look, I want to be very clear here. I don’t — again, I don’t have anything to share on a presidential visit. I — not at this time, or anything to announce.”
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Asked by reporters on Friday outside the White House, Joe Biden confirmed that he does not intend to visit East Palestine.
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