White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday that racism and sexism are at the root of negative critiques of Vice President Kamala Harris — and argued that the lack of news conferences by President Biden is a problem for the media rather than the American public.
During a livestreamed event hosted by Politico’s Women Rule Exchange, Politico senior editor Anita Kumar asked Psaki if she felt Harris was receiving more criticism because she is the first woman and first woman of color to serve as vice president.
“Yes,” Psaki answered, before adding: “Criticism from the outside, absolutely.
“I do think that it has been easier, and harsher, from some in the right wing who have gone after her because she is the first woman, the first woman of color,” the press secretary added. “I’m not suggesting anyone will acknowledge that publicly, but I think there’s no question that the type of attacks — the attacks on her that certainly, being the first she is many times over, is part of that.”
Psaki has repeatedly defended the relationship between Biden and Harris after CNN reported earlier this week that the vice president has been increasingly sidelined inside the administration while being tasked with handling politically dangerous issues.
On Wednesday, Psaki told Kumar that “one of the things I really admire about the vice president [is] she is the first African American woman, woman of color, Indian American woman to serve in this job, [first] woman. I mean, so many firsts, right? It’s a lot to have on your shoulders.
“She is somebody who [is] at a much higher level than the rest of us, but who wants to be seen as the talented, experienced, you know, expert, substantive policy person, partner to the president, that she is,” Psaki added. “But I do think there has been some attacks that are beyond because of her identity.”
Psaki also addressed criticism of Biden for holding a mere handful of formal press conferences 10 months into his term of office, a critique she said was “misunderstood.”
The press secretary insisted it was inaccurate “to suggest that he [Biden] isn’t accessible or doesn’t answer questions.”
“A lot of people think former President Trump was quite accessible. President Biden has answered questions twice as many times at these events than President Trump did at this point in time,” Psaki claimed. “So that’s how he’s decided to engage and approach and that’s what works for him.”
She added that Biden is more comfortable with informal back-and-forth exchanges with reporters at public events than with holding a formal press conference.
“I think the important thing for people to understand … is that at a press conference, you take maybe 10, maybe 15 questions,” Psaki said, adding that Biden “probably takes” 20 to 30 questions a week.
“I think I have to say I think that’s more an issue related to the White House press corps, as it’s their job to be … than it is a concern to the American public. They see the president answer questions multiple times a week, they see him speaking and providing updates,” the press secretary claimed.
“I think it would be hard for anyone to argue that we are not providing information to the public,” Psaki added.
According to the nonprofit American Presidency Project, Donald Trump held one formal press conference during his first year in office, but took questions from reporters at events 20 times.
So far in his presidency, Biden has held six solo press conferences, but taken reporter questions at just three additional events.