Jen Psaki smacks down Fox reporter for taking her words out of context

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing on Friday August 6, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing on Friday August 6, 2021, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House.Photo: Official White House Photo by Erin Scott

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called out a Fox reporter for taking her words grossly out of context to make it seem like President Joe Biden doesn’t care about crime.

Rightwing media this week swarmed Psaki for comments she made in an interview with the liberal podcast Pod Save America, where she was talking about foreign policy and the media coverage of the current Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Related: Jen Psaki shreds Republicans complaining about Biden’s Supreme Court nominee he hasn’t picked yet

“If you look at Fox on a daily basis,” Psaki said, explaining that she keeps an eye on several TV news networks, “so right now, just to give you a sense, there’s CNN: Pentagon as many as 8500 troops and heightened alert. Okay, true. Same on MSNBC. CNBC is doing their own thing about the market.”

“And then on FOX is Jeanine Pirro, talking about ‘soft on crime consequences,'” Psaki said, referring to a chyron on the screen on Fox News. “What does that even mean? So there’s an alternate universe on some coverage.”

“What’s scary about it is a lot of people watch that and they think that the president isn’t doing anything to address people’s safety in New York and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Psaki was clearly saying that she believes that Biden is working to reduce crime but that Fox News is in an “alternate universe” in that they are saying he is doing nothing about crime. All the while, Fox News – according to Psaki – is ignoring more important news in order to maintain its narrative on Biden.

But that’s not what people who follow conservative media would have understood about her comments, which were taken out of context in multiple sources.

“Psaki shrugs off crime concerns as part of ‘alternate universe,'” read the New York Post’s headline.

“Nation’s Largest Police Advocacy Org Accuses Psaki of ‘Laughing Off’ Americans’ Crime Concerns,” the rightwing National Review said.

“‘What Does That Even Mean?’: Psaki Dumbfounded Republicans Focus On Crime Wave,” blasted the headline on The Daily Caller, a website co-founded by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

The alternate universe showed its power to distort reality when Fox News journalist Jacqui Heinrich asked Psaki at the White House press briefing yesterday about just the several words from that podcast interview that were taken out of context.

“One line has prompted some criticism from people,” Heinrich said. “It was, ‘Soft-on-crime consequences. What even is that?'”

She got the quote wrong (Psaki said “what does that even mean?”), but pressed Psaki on whether that was her “personal opinion” or “a reflection of the priorities of this administration?”

“Because the criticism is that it would reflect that crime is not a priority of this administration,” Heinrich said.

But Psaki got right to the point: “Well, I encourage anyone to listen to the full context of the interview and the conversation.”

“What I was speaking to was a chyron on Fox News – since you raised it – which suggested this administration is soft on crime with no basis.”

She then talked about just some of the initiatives that the Biden administration has taken on crime.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Psaki continued. “In the American Rescue Plan, there was additional funding to support local COPS programs, something that every single Republican voted against.”

“I said in that interview that I know they don’t like it when we call that out. I’m going to keep calling that out because that’s a fact.”

“Also, President Biden has proposed a significant increase in funding for local COPS programs in his budget – more than the prior president. That’s a fact.”

“So if those facts are uncomfortable, I’m sorry for people who feel they need to be critical, but the president has been a longtime advocate of addressing crime. He’s never been for defunding the police.”

Fox News ran the clip of Psaki explaining that her words were taken out of context with the chyron, “Fox presses WH on crime surge in Dem-led cities.” Heinrich didn’t even bring up “Dem-led cities.”

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