President Biden and Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy had a heated exchange Thursday at the end of a speech in which Biden announced a vax-or-test-mask-and-distance requirement for millions of federal workers.
As Biden left the podium in the East Room of the White House, Doocy reminded the president that he had said, “if you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.”
“No I didn’t say that,” Biden responded. “I said if you’re fully vaccinated in an area where you do not have – well, let me clarify that –“
Doocy interrupted to clarify his question: “In May, you made it sound like a vaccine was the ticket to losing the masks forever.”
“That was true at the time!” a visibly agitated president shot back. “Because I thought there were people who were going to understand that getting vaccinated made a gigantic difference. What happened was, a new variant came along, they didn’t get vaccinated, it was spread more rapidly, and more people were getting sick. That’s the difference.”
Biden then turned on his heels and made his way out of the room, without donning a mask.
The president’s announcement came two days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the re-imposition of indoor mask mandates in jurisdictions where the spread of the coronavirus is “substantial” or “high.” As of Thursday, nearly 70 percent of all US counties were experiencing “substantial” or “high” transmission, defined by the CDC as having recorded at least 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over the previous seven days.
The CDC recommendations were a reversal of their own guidance from eleven weeks earlier, which stated that fully vaccinated Americans were free to ditch masks in most settings. On May 13, Biden’s official Twitter account posted a four-second video of the president delivering a four-word message from the Oval Office: “It’s vaxxed or masked.”
Six months into Biden’s term of office, Doocy has established himself as a consistently adversarial correspondent, as when he questioned press secretary Jen Psaki in February about where workers on the just-canceled Keystone XL Pipeline could go to obtain “green jobs.”
Meanwhile, the president has consistently lashed out at reporters for asking questions he doesn’t like. In May, Biden was criticized for telling a reporter he couldn’t ask a question about the Middle East during a visit to a Michigan car plant “unless you get in front of the car as I step on it.”
Last month, Biden yelled at CNN’s Kaitlin Collins after she asked why he was so “confident” Russian President Vladimir Putin would change his behavior following a summit meeting between the two leaders in Geneva, Switzerland.
“I’m not confident he’ll change his behavior! What the hell? What do you do all of the time? When did I say I was confident?” asked Biden, who returned to the microphone to harangue the reporter. “What I said was — let’s get this straight — I said what will change their [Russia’s] behavior is if the rest of the world reacted to them and they diminished their standing in the world. I’m not confident of anything, I’m just stating the facts.”
The president later apologized to Collins for “having been short” with her.
On Monday, Biden called veteran NBC News reporter Kelly O’Donnell a “pain in the neck” after she ignored his request to only ask questions about the US ending its combat mission in Iraq to inquire about the Department of Veterans Affairs requiring staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“You are such a pain in the neck,” Biden told O’Donnell. “But I’m going to answer your question because we’ve known each other for so long.”