Monday marked the first White House press briefing in 11 days, so the press corps had plenty to say about the Middle East crisis triggered by Hamas’s October 7 terror attacks in Israel. While some tried to‘both sides’ the situation, Fox’s Grady Trimble and Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann battled National Security Council figurehead John Kirby and Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre over the rising anti-Semitism in America, especially on college campuses.
Wegmann pressed both on the issue, starting with Kirby. Noting there’s been more Republicans (but led by 2024 GOP presidential candidate and Governor Ron DeSantis) “who have called for students or foreign nationals who are demonstrating in…pro-Palestine demonstrations or…allegedly pro-Hamas demonstrations to have their student visas pulled or to face deportation.”
“What is the administration’s remark — response to those kinds of remarks and that kind of rhetoric? Is that an overreaction,” he asked.
Kirby refused to denounce the rhetoric cheering the mass murder of Jews and calling for the end of Israel. Instead, he said “you don’t have to agree with every sentiment that is expressed in a free country like this to — to stand by the — the idea — the First Amendment and the idea of peaceful protest.”
The two went back-to-back during Jean-Pierre’s portion. Citing Wegmann’s exchange with Kirby, Trimble went further: “[D]oes the President view anti-Israel protests and sentiment on college campuses as anti-Semitism?”
Jean-Pierre shamefully refused to denounce it specifically and declined “to get into what’s happening across the country and — and different universities” given “the First Amendment…and peaceful protest is part of — part of our democracy, being able for folks to — to — to be able to express their feelings.”
She took a more esoteric track and sought to put equal weight on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, arguing Biden “has been very clear in wanting to make sure that Jewish Americans, wanting to make sure that Arab Americans, Muslims are protected here” and “any type of violence” is unacceptable.
Trimble called out the mealy-mouthed answer and noted Biden’s bought into the idea on injustices that “silence” on such issues “is complicity,” so why wouldn’t Biden denounce “anti-Semitic letters being sent by students or [anti-Semitic] sentiment at protests.”
As if she were malfunctioning, Jean-Pierre doubled down even though FBI crime statistics show attacks on Jews account for 51.4 percent of religious-based hate crimes whereas those against Muslims tally only 9.6 percent.
Trimble tried once more: “If you talk to a lot of the protesters, you’ll hear anti-Semitism comments. They — they accuse Israel of genocide.”
Jean-Pierre continued to malfunction with her cowardly equivocations and refusal to denounce anti-Israel smears hurled by tens of thousands (if not more) in major cities and at universities.
Wegmann kept up the pressure, citing “a new Harvard-Harris poll….which showed that a slim majority, 51 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the United States, think that the violence in Israel can be justified by the grievance of Palestinians.”
Given this startling find, he wanted to know if Biden and/or his White House would do anything with “college students or those younger generations” and educate them on the facts given so many “seem to be open to the idea that there are two sides to this thing”.
Jean-Pierre refused to engage: “I — I don’t have anything to — to lay out on any specific conversations or outreach that the President’s going to do to students.”
Elsewhere, various reporters lobbied for “a humanitarian ceasefire” (read: a chance for Hamas to reload so they can commit further atrocities against Jews), suggested Hamas’s claims on Gazan death tolls are hurting America’s standing in the world, and if the U.S. is deemphasizing human rights to side with Israel (click “expand”):
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So, the U.N. Secretary-General, the European Union Foreign Policy Chief, and several international leaders are calling for a humanitarian ceasefire. Will we see the United States calling for a humanitarian pause?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Admiral, so sorry. You mentioned this joint statement yesterday where President Biden and several Western allies asked Israel to protect civilians, but the death toll in Gaza is rising sharply. Does it look to you that Israel is abiding by international law? Are they listening to your advice?
DANNY KEMP [AFP]: Admiral, the President has spoken a lot about, you know, the work he’s done in building a coalition behind — behind Ukraine in supporting Ukraine. Are there any concerns that U.S. support for Israel and — and, you know, as civilian casualties rise in Gaza — is there any concern that that could undermine support for the U.S. stance on Ukraine with countries in the Global South, for example, and from Brazil and Asia and Africa, who, you know, might be in — you know, in terms of their — you know, their views on — on Gaza?
JALIL AFRIDI [Frontier Post]: There is no doubt that the U.S. is known for human rights values around the world. Don’t you think the U.S. has delayed this time, as far as human rights are concerned, what is happening in Palestine since day one?
To end the briefing, Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski had this eye-rolling softball:
The President’s event that he has coming up…on a domestic investment part of his agenda — does the President see any frustration in the fact that so much of the attention is on foreign policy that the domestic agenda is sort of less in the news on a day-to-day basis, particularly with what’s going on in the Middle East? Or is it — or is that just the reality of where — of the way the world is.
To see the relevant transcript from the October 23 briefing, click here.