An unlikely response from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to a question about Israel left many convinced that the Biden administration really does not have Israel’s back.
During a Monday press briefing, Jean-Pierre was asked about the rise in antisemitism being seen across the nation following the terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas earlier this month. But her reply to the reporter’s query was more telling for how she responded and what she didn’t say.
“I know John Kirby addressed the protests on college campuses, and I appreciate that the President respects First Amendment rights to protest, but does the President view anti-Israel protests and sentiment on college campuses as antisemitism,” Fox Business News’ Grady Trimble asked.
“I’m not going to get into what’s happening across the country in–at different universities, “Jean-Pierre quickly replied, adding, “I’m not going to get into the specifics.”
“I’m not going to get into any, you know, specifics on that,” the press secretary continued, dancing around actually answering the question.
“The president has been very clear in wanting to make sure that Jewish Americans, wanting to make sure that Arab Americans, Muslims are protected here. That is what he believes in–that we– they have the right to live their lives and to feel protection and to feel like they’re able to be part of a community. The president has been very, very clear on denouncing any type of violence,” she said in response.
FBN’s @Grady_Trimble: “Not looking into blow-by-blow, but the President himself said silence is complicity. So, if there’s anti-Semitic letters being sent by students or [anti-Semitic] sentiment at protests –“
KJP: “Of course — of course, the President doesn’t — is — is –… pic.twitter.com/ZZAqLb6jD6
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) October 23, 2023
When the reporter pressed, saying “the president himself said ‘silence is complicity.’ So, if there’s antisemitic letters being sent by students or protests, sentiment at protests,” and causing Jean-Pierre to – once again – tie antisemitism to Islamaphobia.
“Of course–of course, the president doesn’t–is–is against antisemitism,” she struggled. “Of course. This is a president that you have heard me say is parti–wants to protect communities, whether it’s the Jewish community, the Arab American pre–community, the Palestinian community. This is someone who is going to speak out against antisemitism. Of course.”
Even as Trimble pressed the issue, the press secretary continued to conflate the two as she insisted, “I hear you” and that “we’re always going to denounce anti-semitism,”
“But we, in this administration, are going to always denounce antisemitism, any form of hate–any form of hate. Whether it’s against the Jewish community–right?–anti-semitism, against the Muslim community, Arab American community, or the Palestin–we are going to denounce any form of hate that comes towards those communities,” she continued.
“As it relates to protests — peaceful protests, people have the right to do that. But this is an administration, obviously, obviously, that’s going to be very forceful and very clear about denouncing antisemitism,” Jean-Pierre said.
Jean-Pierre’s quick attempt to add Muslims to the response to a question about antisemitism prompted one social media user to note that the clear message from the Biden administration is “we actually don’t care.”
Reporter: Are you worried about the rising antisemitism in the country?
KJP: No, those concerns are bullshit, we actually don’t care
KJP: President Biden is very concerned about the rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hatred and we are doing everything we can to protect… pic.twitter.com/X705rLGxtW
— Sarah Beth Burwick (@sarahbeth345) October 23, 2023
Before Jean-Pierre had taken the podium, John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, had responded to a question about potentially revoking student visas of pro-Palestinian protesters.
Kirby cited the free speech protections of the First Amendment “and the idea of peaceful protest.”
“I would just tell you, you don’t have to agree with every sentiment as expressed in a free country like this to stand by the idea of the First Amendment and the idea of peaceful protest,”‘ he told reporters. “I’ll leave it at that.”
Q: Should student visas be revoked from foreign nationals who have engaged in pro-Hamas protests?
JOHN KIRBY: “You don’t have to agree with every sentiment that is expressed” pic.twitter.com/hXykORD4Pp
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 23, 2023
His comments come in the wake of widespread anti-Israel, pro-Palestine protests that have broken out across the nation and, in particular, universities and campuses where the two sides have clashed in sometimes hostile demonstrations.
In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, 19 Republican lawmakers called for the visas to be revoked for any students who have been openly supporting Hamas.
“We write to request information regarding the potentially unlawful presence on U.S. soil of non-immigrant foreign nationals who have endorsed terrorist activity,” they wrote.