White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday defended Kamala Harris for not wearing a face mask yet again, this time in a video posted by the White House of the vice president going bare-faced indoors.
The White House shared a video of Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and members of Jackson’s family gathered around President Joe Biden in the Oval Office without face masks on Friday, celebrating Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Harris was deemed a close contact to covid last week after her communications director, Jamal Simmons, tested positive.
Psaki repeated her excuse from last week that it was an ’emotion day’ for Harris, the nation’s first black vice president, to see the first black woman confirmed to the high court.
‘It was an emotional day. It was a historic day. And there were moments when she was not wearing a mask inside, including in a photo but she was wearing it 99.9% of the time,’ Psaki said at her White House press briefing.
She pointed out both Biden and Harris tested negative for covid on Monday.
‘There are moments when, yes, she was human, and she didn’t have a face mask on in a photo, but she has worn the mask and certainly that is what we want to convey to the American people,’ Psaki said.
‘It was a decision made in the moment. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t all try to be model citizens here and abide by what the CDC protocols are on requirements,’ Psaki noted.
The White House spent the latter part of last week defending Harris after she didn’t wear a face mask on the Senate floor during Jackson’s confirmation vote on Wednesday and then didn’t wear a face mask to the outdoor ceremony on Friday marking Jackson’s confirmation.
Jen Psaki defended Kamala Harris again on Monday for not wearing a mask during an event Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court; the White House has been on defense for the vice president
At one point footage from Judge Kentaji Jackson’s confirmation ceremony on Friday shows Harris, First Lady Jill Biden, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Jackson, and members of Jackson’s family gathered around Biden without face masks
Vice President Kamala Harris wore a face mask when she walked out of the Oval Office with President Joe Biden on Monday for an event to combat ‘ghost guns’ in the Rose Garden
Vice President Harris had her mask off for the event but put it back on after she returned to the Oval Office with President Biden
Harris was seen on Monday walking out of the Oval Office wearing a face mask as she joined President Biden for an event to crackdown on ghost guns. She took the mask off when she entered the Rose Garden and, after the event, she put the mask back on when she walked back into the Oval Office with the president.
CDC guidelines says those indiviuals who are exposed but are vaccinated and boosted – as Harris is – should ‘wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure.’
Harris was not wearing a face mask on Friday when she walked out of the White House with Jackson and President Biden for an event on the South Lawn honor Jackson’s confirmation – nor did she put one on during the event.
Psaki said on Friday the vice president did wear a face mask indoors but took it off because the event was outside.
‘She was outside,’ Psaki said. ‘You can benefit significantly being outside that’s why we have we had the event outside today. I will tell you that the Vice President has been wearing a mask inside when there was a private group. They were all wearing masks.’
CDC guidelines do not distinguish between being indoors or outdoors.
Psaki also said Harris was ‘socially distanced for the vast majority of the event’ on Friday.
When a reporter asked her about Harris standing on stage with President Biden, Psaki responded: ‘Six feet away.’
Harris did hug Jackson at the event, but Psaki said it was because the vice president had an ’emotional moment.’
‘She had an emotional moment as which is understandable,’ she said.
President Joe Biden wore a face mask when he arrived back at the White House on Monday after spending the weekend in Wilmington, Del.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki defended Vice President Kamala Harris (above) for not wearing a mask during an outdoor event celebrating Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to SCOTUS
President Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President Kamala Harris and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, walks out of the White House for the event on the South Lawn
Simmons announced his positive covid diagnosis on Wednesday. The vice president’s office, in the announcement, said Harris was deemed a close contact and would consult with her doctors.
Simmons was at a Tuesday event at the White House marking the one-year anniversary of the Affordable Healthcare Act, where he hugged former President Barack Obama.
Harris was also at that event. And, on Thursday, she did not wear a face mask in the Senate chamber when she presided over the vote to confirm Jackson to the Supreme Court. She did wear one in the hallways of the Capitol.
Psaki said she didn’t wear one during the vote because Harris, the country’s first black vice president, was ‘playing an important role’ in the confirmation process.
‘She was playing an important role in in confirming or overseeing the confirmation of the first black woman to the Supreme Court,’ Psaki said. ‘She was socially distanced from people for the vast, vast majority for time overseeing that confirmation.’
Two senators who were at the vote – Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia – tested positive for covid later Thursday afternoon.
Collins was at Saturday’s white-tie Gridiron Dinner, where several cabinet members, lawmakers and journalists in attendance later tested positive. Simmons, the Harris staffer, also attended the dinner.
At least 72 people have tested positive for covid since attending the event.
Biden wore a face mask as he arrived back at the White House on Monday after spending the weekend in Wilmington, Del.. He removed it as he walked from Marine One to the Oval Office.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams was one of the latest dinner attendee to announce he tested positive, which came on his 100th day in office.
Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, who also attended the dinner, announced Monday she was positive with mild symptoms.
Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria, who also attended the dinner, has tested positive for covid. Luria, who is vaccinated and boosted, is experiencing mild symptoms.
Gridiron Gridiron Club President Tom DeFrank said Sunday that the group had reported 72 cases out of the hundreds of people who attended.
The dinner, one of Washington’s most exclusive events, was held in person on April 2 after a two-year hiatus. It attracted 630 guests this year. There was a vaccine requirement to attend.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert for the government, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday that he believes people should determine their own levels of risk and that those ‘who run big dinners, who run functions like the White House correspondents’ ball or, thinking back, the Gridiron Dinner, are going to have to make a determination looking at the CDC guidelines and seeing where the trends are.’
The White House, meanwhile, acknowledged on Friday that Biden could get covid.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told CNN that it’s certainly possible Biden, 79, will get covid at some point, but noted that he’s vaccinated and double boosted so a severe case is unlikely.
The admission comes as more people with access to the president – including cabinet officials, lawmakers and his sister – have tested positive for the virus.
‘We take precautions to ensure that the president is protected. But I do think it’s important to note that, you know, it is possible he will test positive for covid at some point,’ Bedingfield said Friday morning. ‘The president is vaccinated and double-boosted and so, protected from severe covid.’
‘The president is certainly living his life. Just as, as you say, all Americans across the country are while taking precautions,’ she noted.
There were a few hundred people at Friday’s event on the South Lawn to celebrate Jackson’s confirmation.
The White House has pushed back to comparisions of Friday’s event for Jackson to the September 2020 event in the White House Rose Garden where then-President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
That event turned into a super spreader, where multiple people in attendance – including President Trump, Melania Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee and Chris Christie – later tested positive for covid.
Bedingfield said the country was in a different place than where it was for the Barrett announcement.
‘We’re in a very different place than we were, for example, when they held that event for Justice Barrett, which is to say, we have vaccines. We have treatments,’ she told CNN.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also defended Friday’s celebration, pointing out the event will be outside.
‘It’s supposed to be a beautiful day. That is a big factor,’ she said.
However, Psaki could not say if Judge Jackson had tested negative for covid on Thursday. Jackson joined Biden in the Roosevelt Room of the White House to watch the Senate vote to confirm her to the Supreme Court. Photos show Biden and Jackson holding hands and hugging. Neither were wearing face masks.
Vice President Kamala Harris presided over Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation vote to the Supreme Court on Thursday in the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine (left) and Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia (right) – both of whom were on the Senate floor on Thursday to vote for Jackson’s confirmation to the Supreme Court – later tested positive for covid
The White House lifted its face mask policy after the case rate went down for the Washington D.C. area.
Psaki also dismissed concerns Jackson’s celebration could turn into a superspreader like Barrett event.
‘Well, one, at that point in time vaccines weren’t available. People were not vaccinated. It certainly puts us in a different space,’ she said on Thursday.
The outdoor event comes after some guests at Tuesday and Wednesday’s indoor White House events tested positive for covid – including Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Biden was not deemed a close contact to Pelosi because, the White House said, he did not meet the CDC guidelines of being within six feet of her for more than 15 minutes.
‘It did not meet that bar,’ Psaki said of Biden and Pelosi’s time together.
The tightening circle of positive cases around the president led to the repeated questions to Psaki about his safety and health.
She spent most of Thursday’s press briefing defending the administration’s protocols to keep Biden healthy.
Pskai said there were no plans to change covid protocols or reinstate a face mask policy for the White House.
‘We expected there to be ups and downs and increases,’ she said of the case rate.
She said there were no plans to test the president daily. Biden tested negative for covid on Wednesday evening and is tested regularly.
‘That would be a decision made by his doctor, but that is not deemed to be necessary at this point,’ Psaki said.
The past week has seen an uptick in positive tests – particularly among people who have access to Biden, leading to the questions about the policies in place to keep the 79-year-old from getting infected.
Vice President Kamala Harris wore a face mask in the halls of the Senate on Thursday after being deemed a close contact to a staffer who tested positive for covid
White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted President Joe Biden was not a close contact with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has tested positive for covid, despite the hugs and kiss on the cheek they shared – above Biden and Pelosi at a Tuesday event at the White House
Jamal Simmons (left) with former President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris at an event at the White House on Tuesday; Simmons tested positive for covid on Wednesday
The White House has pushed back to comparisions of Friday’s event for Judget Jackson to the September 2020 event in the White House Rose Garden where then-President Donald Trump announced Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court
That event turned into a super spreader, where multiple people in attendance – including President Trump, Melania Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Senator Mike Lee and Chris Christie – later tested positive for covid
In addition to Pelosi, lawmakers, two cabinet officials and several members of the White House press corps tested positive for covid following Saturday’s Gridiron dinner – a white tie gathering of D.C. elite – and after a goodbye party for former National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne late last week.
Psaki said there were strict policies in place at the White House to protect the president and other principals.
‘We have incredibly stringent protocols here at the White House that we keep in place to keep the president safe. to keep everybody safe. Those go over and above CDC guidelines,’ she said.
She noted that senior staff are tested regularly and that anyone meeting with the president is tested.
‘If you’re going to see him in person, whether you’re traveling with him or you’re meeting in the Oval Office, you will be tested,’ she noted.
Pelosi was not at Saturday night’s Gridiron dinner, a white-tie event of Washington media and officials.
The Gridiron Club dinner is an off-camera, off-the-record event for members of the media. Politicians and other a-list figures are invited to its annual dinner.
The event features a Republican speaker, a Democratic speaker, and a speaker representing the sitting administration, along with a series of sketches performed by club members.
But Biden’s sister Valerie Biden Owens, 76, was at the Gridiron dinner and tested positive for covid, her publisher announced on Thursday. A planned party for her memoir was canceled and her publisher said she is not a close contact with the president or first lady.
Several members of Biden’s cabinet and lawmakers who were at the dinner later tested positive including: Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Senator Collins, and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Joaquin Castro.