Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, August 3, 2021 | Beaufort County Now | Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, August 3, 2021

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Press Release:

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room  •  Washington D.C.  •  August 3  •  2:17 P.M. EDT

    MS. PSAKI:   Hi, everyone. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top. I wanted to take a moment to recognize the passing of Metropolitan Police Officer Gunther Hashida and Officer Kyle DeFreytag — two officers who bravely defended the Capitol, both during and after the insurrection on January 6th. Their deaths are a sad reminder of that shameful day in our country's history and of the physical and mental scars left the officers who risked their lives to protect our Capitol and our democracy.

    We heard firsthand, last week, from tho- — from some of those who served on that day, and their testimony reaffirmed the incredible bravery they showed in the worst possible circumstances. Their passing also reminds us of the remarkable courage of the men and women in law enforcement who serve with honor and leave home each day not knowing what risk they may face but are determined to protect their communities. We're indebted to their services, and our thoughts go out to the friends, family, and loved ones of the two officers.

    And we want to remind those who are struggling that help is available 24/7. Please reach out to the Suicide Prevention line — Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

    I also wanted to mark that today is two years since the mass shooting in El Paso that killed 23 people in a terrible act of domestic terrorism. They targeted a city defined by its diversity and rich Hispanic heritage.

    This morning, the President published an op-ed in the El Paso Times sharing his and the First Lady's condolences with the families who lost loved ones and the broader El Paso Community. And he wrote about how today is a somber reminder of the unfinished work to heal the soul of this nation and end the epidemic of gun violence that is taking lives and shattering communities.

    The President and Vice President are currently meeting, as you all know, with 12 Latino leaders in the State Dining Room. At the to- — and you heard the President speak at the top of the meeting, of course. During the meeting, the President will speak about the work we must do to counter domestic terrorism and the spread of hate-fueled violence in every form, and end the scourge of gun violence in America.

    They will also focus — they'll also talk about the President's Build Back Better agenda and how it will benefit Latinos throughout the country, our economic recovery, voting rights, and immigration.

    Also wanted to note that today we are marking Black Women's Equal Pay Day, which marks how far into the year Black women working full time need to work to earn what their white non-Hispanic male counterparts earned in the previous year.

    It takes a Black woman nearly 20 months to earn what a white man made in one year for the same work. Black women manage a disproportionate share of caregiving responsibilities, which have dramatically increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that they may have to work part-time or leave the work — labor force entirely. They also comprise a disproportionate share of low-wage workers in industries, such as caregiving, that lack adequate compensation and benefits.

    The Biden-Harris administration has taken several steps to increase opportunity for Black women and girls, their families, and their communities to thrive in the workplace and to be economically secure — from the American Rescue Plan to the executive order to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in the workforce and vetting racial equ- — equity across this administration's response; to COVID-19 and the economic crisis; and prioritizing Black mental health. And we, of course, will continue our work.

    I think I'm almost done here. Finally, last thing here: As a part of our effort as the bipartisan infrastructure bill is working its way through the Senate, the President is quite focused on lifting up the benefits of the bill to the American people. So we're going to highlight a different component each day, and we'll also do that through our digital social channels as well.

    So today I'm going to highlight the unprecedented investment of $80 billion in passenger and freight rail over five years. That's a 500 percent increase over current services, and it represents the largest investment in passenger rail since the creation of Amtrak a half a century ago.

    This money will help us eliminate Amtrak's maintenance backlog; bring world-class rail service to areas around the country, creating good-paying union jobs in the process; and it will help make American businesses compete, grow, and expand by making it easier and cheaper for them to get their products to customers.

    With that, Jonathan, kick us off.

    Q:  Thank you, Jen. In March, President Biden said that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo should resign if the New York Attorney General's investigation confirmed allegations of sexual harassment. Today, the investigation found that Cuomo engaged in unwanted groping and kissing of at least 11 women, including current and former state employees. Does the President believe Governor Cuomo should resign?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, the President just said that he's going to speak to this later this afternoon and share his views, so I'm not going to get ahead of his — ahead of his comments he'll make later.

    Q:  Have there been any conversations today between the governor's office and anyone here at the White House?

    MS. PSAKI: No, there have not.

    Q:  And why even — why — why the delay? Why not have the — did the President watch the governor's video earlier?

    MS. PSAKI: Again, the President will give his own reaction to, of course, the announcement this morning and give his own view later this afternoon.

    Q:  Okay. Then we'll move on to something else then. There was a shooting today, earlier, at — that caused the lockdown of the Pentagon. And in that same burst of violence, it appears that a law enforcement officer was stabbed to death. Has the White House been briefed on what happened? What can you share as to what occurred today?


    MS. PSAKI: We're, of course, in close touch with Pentagon officials. My colleague, John Kirby, will be briefing at the Pentagon and sharing more details on their end. We don't have additional details to share publicly, as the next of kin is still being notified.

    Go ahead.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen. Does the White House have a message for the women who came forward with these accusations against the governor?

    MS. PSAKI: The White House's message, the President's message, the Vice President's message, my message is: All womens [sic] who have — who have lived through sexual — this type of — this type of experience, whether it is harassment or abuse or, in the worst case, assault, deserve to have their voices heard, deserve to be treated with respect and with dignity.

    I don't know that anyone could have watched this morning and not found the allegations to be abhorrent. I know I certainly did. And, again, the President will speak to this later this afternoon.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen. And staying in New York, but on COVID, if you will: New York announced today that indoor diners, people who go to gyms, entertainment venues are going to have to show some sort of proof of vaccination. Is that a move that this White House supports? And does this amount to a vaccine passport?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, we know and recognize, Cecilia, that different communities and states are going to take steps to protect the people living in their states and also incentivize, whether it's through carrots or sticks, more people getting vaccinated. That is what is going to save lives, and that is what is going to bring an end to the pandemic. This is certainly an example of that.

    We are not issuing federal passports — vaccine passports from the federal government, but we do know that private sector entities and other localities will make their own decisions.

    What we see as our objective is to continue to make the vaccine as accessible and available, and close the disparities that we see among racial groups in New York — including in New York — to ensure that this is not a barrier for entry to different groups based on socioeconomic or other factors.

    Q:  And just one really quick one on COVID. San Francisco is now offering supplemental Pfizer or Moderna shots to folks who had the J&J vaccine. Is that something that this administration endorses? And might we see that coming from the CDC?

    MS. PSAKI: That's not based on public health — current public health guidance provided by the CDC. That has not changed.

    We, again, know different localities will be making decisions, but that's not reflective of current public health guidance.

    Go ahead.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen. Sticking with the same topic, Governor DeSantis, in Florida, is taking a very different approach than New York is. Florida just hit another record today of COVID cases, and yet he's pushing back on local municipalities that are trying to impose new mask mandates and other means of keeping people protected.

    Does the White House have any reaction to Governor DeSantis, and particularly to his point that this is just seasonal in Florida because people are hot so they're staying indoors and transmitting the vaccine — the virus.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, the data just doesn't back that up. I would say, first, Florida is not the only state; seven states have both a statewide ban on mask mandates and a prohibition on school districts from requiring masks in schools.

    And some states have even banned businesses and universities from requiring workers and students to be vaccinated. In fact, the most extreme of these measures is in Texas where you can be fined — a professor or teacher can be fined if they ask a student if they are vaccinated or if they ask unvaccinated students to wear masks.

    And I think the fundamental question we have is: What are we doing here?

    And the President — you'll hear the President talk a little bit about this later this afternoon. His message is going to be: We're all in this fight together, whether it's Democratic or Republican governor. And I will note, most Republican governors are doing exactly the right thing and doing — and advocating for — and taking steps to advocate for more people to get vaccinated.

    But if you aren't going to help, if you aren't going to abide by public health guidance, then get out of the way and let people do the right thing to lead in their communities, whether they are teachers, university leaders, private sector leaders, or others who are trying to save lives.

    [ ... ]

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