Jen Psaki turns table on reporter trying to link Biden to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill

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 wasn’t having it when a reporter tried to link President Joe Biden with Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The law would ban elementary school teachers from mentioning LGBTQ topics in class. Supported by Republicans, the measure has passed both legislative chambers and awaits signature by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R); DeSantis supports the bill.

Related: Disney board asks shareholders to reject human rights & anti-discrimination resolutions

“In 1994, when many of us in this room were in school, President Biden actually voted for a much broader restriction that banned federal funds from being used for, quote, ‘the promotion of homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative’,” the reporter said. “Why did he do that?  And can you describe how his thinking has evolved over the years?”

Psaki replied, “Well, I think that you have seen the President speak passionately about his view that a bill like this – a bill that would discriminate against families, against kids, put these kids in a position of not getting the support they need at a time where that’s exactly what they need – is discriminatory. It’s a form of bullying.  It is horrific.  I mean, the President has spoken to that.”

“In terms of his views and comments from 25 years ago, I think the most important question now is: Why are Florida leaders deciding they need to discriminate against kids who are members of the LGBTQI community?  What prompts them to do that?  Is it meanness?  Is it wanting to make kids have more difficult times in school, in their communities?  I would pose that question to them, and we can talk about it more tomorrow if you get an answer.”

“Was there a reason he supported the same policy, though, in the ’90s when we were all in school?” the reporter asked.

“I think what’s important to note here is how outspoken the President has been against discrimination against kids, against members of the LGBTQI+ community. And what we’re looking at here is a bill that would propagate misinformed, hateful policies and impact children,” Psaki responded. “So that’s the question I hope – maybe you can pose that to some of the leaders in Florida.  Maybe they’ll return your phone calls. And I’ll look forward to having a conversation with you.”

Amidst massive outcry against Disney’s refusal to speak out against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, CEO Bob Chapek announced yesterday that the company will donate $5 million to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and other LGBTQ rights organizations. Chapek also said he would meet with  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to discuss somehow preventing the bill – which would stop teachers from mentioning LGBTQ people in elementary schools – from being weaponized against LGBTQ people.

But for HRC, that’s not enough. A press release from the organization stated that it would not take any money from Disney “until meaningful action is taken to combat” the bill and not simply try to make it less horrible.

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HRC rejects $5M Disney donation until company does something to stop Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill

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