White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had to explain the concept of “friends” and cultural differences to a Fox News journalist who is obsessed with who President Joe Biden considers a friend.
On Monday, at the start of a virtual summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was “very happy to see my old friend,” referring to Biden. Xi, of course, did not use the word “friend,” but that is the English word the interpreter chose to express Xi’s banal pleasantries.
Ignoring cultural differences and the problems associated with translations, Fox News’s Peter Doocy decided that he had finally caught Biden in a lie. This past June, Doocy had suggested Biden call Xi and talk “old friend to old friend” in order to get more information about the origin of the COVID-19 virus.
“Let’s get something straight: we know each other well. We’re not old friends. It’s just pure business,” Biden responded at the time.
A journalist on Monday asked Psaki about why Xi said that he considers Biden an “old friend” but Biden said in June that he did not consider Xi an “old friend,” and Psaki said that Xi and Biden have known each other for years but she “can confirm” that Biden “does not consider [Xi] an ‘old friend.'”
It was a short, humorous exchange, and that should have been where it ended. But rightwing media has been publishing stories about how Xi let the cat out of the bag on his friendship with Biden, going so far as to suggest that Biden doesn’t care about human rights violations in China because of this secret friendship.
Doocy once again pressed the issue on Thursday at the White House Press Briefing, demanding transparency on whether Xi and Biden are friends or just work acquaintances.
“Are they ‘old friends’ or not?” Doocy demanded of Psaki. “Because the president has claimed that they’re not, you claim that they’re not, but then President Xi said that they are.”
“The president didn’t say that” they’re friends, Psaki reiterated, explaining that Biden “considers [Xi] someone he has known for some time, someone he can have candid relationships with.”
Then she told Doocy that sometimes different cultures and languages have different words for relationships that don’t translate neatly into English.
“I can’t speak for how the Chinese categorize or describe people they know in the world. I can only describe how the president views the relationship,” she said before moving on to a more serious question about immigration.
Doocy asks Psaki if Biden and Chinese President Xi are “old friends" pic.twitter.com/S96q3LaDvE
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) November 18, 2021