All the times Fox News’ Peter Doocy has clashed with the White House

The dynamic is very different than the last four years in the Brady press briefing room

Josh Marcus,Megan Sheets
Monday 24 January 2022 23:31 GMT
Psaki demolishes Fox News reporter with stats on how Covid vaccines work

There were so few press conferences during the Trump administration that at one point the podium in the press briefing room wasliterally gathering cobwebs.

When the Biden administration resumed regular press briefings, Fox News’ Peter Doocy made an immediate impression.

He quickly developed a reputation for asking the president and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki awkward questions — and occasionally provoking mildly annoyed responses from top officials.

Nearly a year into the Biden administration, Mr Doocy has upheld that reputation time and time again.

Here are some of the most memorable exchanges:

January 2021

One early indication that a more open dialogue with media was coming back after four tense years under Donald Trump could be found in Mr Doocy’s exchange with Ms Psaki over coronavirus travel bans in January 2021. It came in response to the Biden administrationbanning non-citizen travel from South Africa, and extending similar Trump-era bans on nations like Brazil, Europe, and Britain over new, highly contagious coronavirus variants.

"When president Trump was imposing travel restrictions in March, specifically on China then candidate Biden called it ‘xenophobic’ and ‘fear-mongering,’” Mr Doocy asked. “Now, President Biden is putting travel restrictions on people coming in from other countries. What word do we use to describe that?"

The press secretary responded that the question wasn’t quite a “fair articulation,” arguing Mr Biden opposed the Muslim travel ban,which he recently overturned, as xenophobic, and had criticised the previous president’s coronavirusbans on travel from China as an incomplete and stigmatising solution.

In another exchange about coronavirus on 25 January 2021, Mr Biden acknowledged the hard-nosed reporter’s style directly. After a question about whether the president could live up to his campaign promises that he would tackle the pandemic in short order, Mr Biden said, “I know he always asks me tough questions, and he always has an edge to them, but I like him anyway," before saying he wasn’t overselling his ability to tackle Covid.

Yet another memorable moment came a day later.

As Mr Biden was walking away, after signing executive orders aimed at addressing racial inequity, Mr Doocy shouted out, "Mr President, what did you talk to Vladimir Putin about?" following news that the leaders had a recent phone call. Mr Biden responded, “You. He sent his best.” 

The president seemed a bit peeved at the question, but fellow White House journalists at the Washington Post and New York Times thought it was fair.

Things got off to a testy start almost instantly between the reporter and the administration, after Mr Doocy peppered the press secretary with questions over why the Biden family wasn’t masked at inauguration festivities, despite Mr Biden’s repeated calls to mask up and a federal order requiring masks on federal property.

“I think we have bigger issues to worry about at this moment in time,” Ms Psaki said.  

March 2021

Mr Doocy put himself at odds with the White House again in March after Mr Biden’s first official news conference, when the correspondent complained that he wasn’t able to ask any questions.

Appearing on camera from outside the White House after the event, Mr Doocy held up a “binder full of questions” that he had ready, complaining that most of the topics he had prepared were not covered at the event.

The chyron beneath Mr Doocy read: “Biden snubs Fox News during first news conf.”

Fox News Peter Doocy responds to being snubbed at Biden press conference

April 2021

He got his chance to speak at another press conference in April, where he asked Ms Psaki about the MLB’s decision to move its All-Star game out of Georgia in protest of the state’s new and highly-restrictive voting laws.

“Is the White House concerned that Major League Baseball is moving their All-Star Game to Colorado where voting regulations are very similar to Georgia?” he asked.

Ms Psaki clapped back with a lengthy rebuttal of his claim that the voting laws are similar, followed by the assertion that Georgia’s new rules were sparked by false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Getting back to Mr Doocy’s question, she said: “Ultimately, though, it’s up to Major League Baseball to determine where they’re holding their All-Star Game.”

May 2021

The following month, Mr Doocy used his time to question why Mr Biden wasn’t pushing harder for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19.

Ms Psaki’s response - which trended on Twitter - didn’t hold back: “First of all, we need access to the underlying data and information in order to have that investigation. I think you’re misunderstanding how this process actually works.

“An international investigation, led by the World Health Organization, is actually something we’ve been pressing for, for several months. What we can’t do, and what I would caution anyone doing, is leaping ahead of an actual international process.”

June 2021

In late June, Mr Doocy broached the topic of track and field athlete Gwen Berry’s protest during an awards ceremony at the US Olympic trials, where she turned her back to the American flag during the national anthem, in an attempt to elicit criticism from Ms Psaki.

“She turned her back while the anthem played. Does President Biden think that is appropriate behavior for someone who hopes to represent Team USA?” Mr Doocy asked.

Ms Psaki responded in three parts: first saying she hadn’t spoken to Mr Biden on this topic, then adding that he has “great respect for the anthem”, and then finally giving Mr Doocy an answer he wasn’t looking for.

“He would also say, of course, that part of that pride in our country means recognizing there are moments where we as a country haven’t lived up to our highest ideals, and it means respecting the right of people, granted to them in the Constitution, to peacefully protest,” she said.

July 2021

Days later, Ms Psaki shut down a question from Mr Doocy by referencing a report from his own network.

It came when Mr Doocy asked about Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta’s 2020 comments supporting the Black Lives Matter movement’s calls to decrease police budgets. He did not mention the fact that Ms Gupta had formally disavowed the defunding movement during her confirmation hearings in March 2021.

Ms Psaki responded by citing a February 2021 Fox News reporter about Ms Gupta receiving support from the Fraternal Order of Police and dozens of municipal police chiefs.

Another sparring match came in mid-July, when Mr Doocy questioned Mr Biden’s rebuke of proposed voting restrictions in Texas - after Democrats fled the state in a bid to block them.

Facing Ms Psaki at a briefing the day after Mr Biden’s comments, the correspondent questioned whether the president had ever fled Washington, DC, ahead of a “vote that he knew he was going to lose”.

Visibly annoyed, Ms Psaki began her response by telling Mr Doocy: “Welcome back.”

She continued: “I think the president’s view is that these Texas legislators were making a statement through actions in opposition to efforts in their state to oppose restrictions on people’s fundamental rights and their rights to vote in their state.”

Mr Doocy said in defence: “Maybe it’s funny to think about it that way, the president trying to picture this as the most serious assault on democracy.”

Cutting him off, Ms Psaki replied: “I don’t think anything about this is funny.”

Jen Psaki says voting restrictions 'not funny' in spat with Peter Doocy

Mr Doocy stepped things up two days later when he posed a deeply problematic question:  “For how long has the administration been spying on people’s Facebook profiles, looking for vaccine information?”

The question was in reference to assertions by Ms Psaki and Surgeon General Vivek H Murthy that the bulk of vaccine misinformation circulated on Facebook could be traced back to about a dozen people.

Mr Doocy appeared to be trying to trick Ms Psaki into admitting that the White House made that determination by combing through Facebook profiles. However, she quickly refuted it by citing the true source, a March 2021 report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

“That was quite a loaded and inaccurate question,” she said. “This is publicly open information, people sharing information online, just as you are all reporting information on your news stations.

Speaking over Mr Doocy’s repeated objections, she added: “I’m happy to get you the citation where that comes from. There’s no secret list.”

August 2021

Ms Psaki was lauded for another “epic response” to Mr Doocy in early August, when he asked a series of questions regarding the sexual harassment allegations against Andrew Cuomo, who was still governor of New York at the time.

“Does the administration want the Justice Department to initiate a civil rights investigation into these harassment allegations revealed today,” Mr Doocy asked.

Ms Psaki replied with an obvious jab at the Trump administration, saying: “We do something new here that feels foreign from the last four years and allow the Justice Department to act independently on investigations.”

Psaki says White House will let Justice department decide on Cuomo allegations response

She shot Mr Doocy down once again the following week when he asked whether a comment Mr Biden made in 2020 was causing “vaccine hesitancy”.

“At the time, when Donald Trump is out there saying we’re gonna have a vaccine in the next couple weeks, next couple months, and Joe Biden is out on the campaign trail saying, ‘Don’t trust Donald Trump,’ did that create any kind of vaccine hesitancy?” he probed.

Ms Psaki hit back by recalling how Mr Trump once suggested Americans inject themselves with bleach to protect against Covid-19.

“Not that we’ve seen in the data,” she said. “I would note that at the time, just for context, the former president was also suggesting people inject versions of poison into their veins to cure Covid. So I think that’s a relevant point.”

Biden 'still does not trust Donald Trump' says White House

A few days later, Ms Psaki addressed her relationship with Mr Doocy, telling Mediaite that it isn’t as contentious as it appears on TV.

“My engagement with him, people don’t always see this, but outside the briefing room, it is entirely professional and entirely, hopefully, responsive,” she said. “There’s a performative component from the TV side of the briefing room.”

November 2021

The pair put on another performance in mid-November, when Mr Doocy brought up Mr Biden’s holiday vacation to Nantucket and soaring inflation.

“What message does it send to the middle-class Americans President Biden says that he’s trying to help, who are struggling this week to cover the cost of the most expensive Thanksgiving ever, that the President is going to take a few days off at a billionaire’s compound in Nantucket?” he asked asked.

Ms Psaki responded by explaining that a turkey would cost about “one dollar more” before Mr Doocy pressed her about the vacation aspect.

She replied: “Well, first, I would say, Peter, that I hope you’re spending time with your family. I’m spending time with my family, and I hope everybody in here is spending time with their families.

“This is a time to put politics aside, spend time with your loved ones, and talk about what you’re grateful for.”

December 2021

In another holiday face-off in mid-December, Mr Doocy referenced the burning of a Christmas tree outside the Fox News headquarters in New York City as he questioned whether Mr Biden supported crime-fighting tactics of local leaders.

“Just in the last week we saw a New York Post item about a pickpocket with more than 30 arrests, back out on the street. We’ve seen an arsonist burn down a half-a-million-dollar Christmas tree in New York City back on the streets. Does the president think that’s good governing?” he asked.

Ms Psaki reiterated that federal agencies were working with local law enforcement organisations to fight instances of large-scale retail theft, an issue that has captured headlines in recent weeks, while directing Mr Doocy’s other inquiries to local police departments or the Department of Justice.

January 2022

The first big row of the new yearcame on 10 January, when Mr Doocy questioned why Mr Biden still referred to Covid-19 as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”.

Mr Doocy highlighted the large number of vaccinated Americans suffering breakthrough infections during his first press briefing since experiencing a breakthrough himself.

Ms Psaki proceeded to shut him down by listing off a string of statistics.

“There is a huge difference between that and being unvaccinated,” she said bluntly.

“You are 17 times more likely to go to the hospital if you’re not vaccinated, 20 times more likely to die.

“So yes, the impact for people who are unvaccinated is far more dire than for those who are vaccinated.”

Psaki demolishes Fox News reporter with stats on how Covid vaccines work

January 2022

Joe Biden called Mr Doocy a “Stupid son of a bitch” on camera after he asked him a question about inflation at the White House.

The president was caught on camera slamming Doocy after the reporter asked him at the end of a photo opportunity, “Do you think inflation is a political liability in the midterms?”

“It’s a great asset - more inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch.”

The journalist laughed off the incident when he appeared on Fox News and said he had not even heard Mr Biden’s response because of all the noise in the room.

“Yeah, no one has fact checked him and said it’s not true,” he told host Jesse Watters, who had joked he agreed with the president’s assessment.

Doocy’s road to the White House

Mr Doocy was named White House correspondent for the network about a week before Mr Biden took office. He’s the son of Steve Doocy, co-host of Fox News’s Fox and Friends, perhaps President Trump’s favourite show on the network before he eventuallydisavowed Fox for reporting that Mr Biden was winning the election.

The young Doocy is no stranger to asking memorable questions.

In 2008, as a student at Villanova University, he asked John McCain, on campus for a speech, whether he wanted to get a shot of whiskey together once the event was over.

“He paused and had this great reaction. He collected himself, and he eventually came around to saying that it was one of the two best questions he had heard in the entire campaign. As a college junior, this was so cool to hear,” Doocy told the Villanova alumni magazine.

Under Mr Trump, interactions between the press and the president were downright toxic, with the White House relentlessly attacking journalists as dishonest and the “enemy of the people,” while oftengoing weeks or months without the president and top officials taking formal questions. Mr Trump also regularlysingled out female journalists of colour for abuse as “stupid” and “nasty,” and the White House briefly banned CNN journalist Jim Acosta, who had a habit of asking hard questions of Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders that would later go viral.

The president kept on attacking the press right up until his speech to the rioters who eventually stormed the Capitol on 6 January 2021, lambasting his favourite target, the “fake news media,” who wouldn’t affirm his outright lie to his supporters that he won the election but for a rigged process.

The Biden administration promised to bring “trust and transparency back to the briefing room.”

Under the Obama administration, where Mr Biden served as vice president, more people were prosecutedunder the 1917 Espionage Act for leaking classified information, which often wound up turning into major news stories, than under all previous administrations at the time.

The federal government also seized journalists’ communications without notice for national security reasons, and surveilled a Fox News journalist it argued was a “co-conspirator” for receiving leaked information, a move the New York Times editorial board wrote in 2013  was “beyond protecting government secrets to threatening fundamental freedoms of the press to gather news.”

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