Jen Psaki says criticism from Fox News on crime levels has ‘no basis’ in reality

White House fires back at characterisation of Biden as ‘soft on crime’

John Bowden
Monday 31 January 2022 20:41 GMT
Jen Psaki addresses criticism of her remarks on crime

The White House pushed back on right-leaning media organisations, including Fox News, over criticism of the president as “soft on crime”.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, was asked on Monday at her daily briefing about comments she made on a recent Pod Save America taping that included her own criticism of a Fox News chyron blasting the Biden administration for supposedly embracing policies that the right has characterised as anti-law enforcement and having the result of releasing individuals who re-offend back onto the street.

Ms Psaki responded by noting that she mocking tone she took during the interview was in response to Fox News’ coverage of the issue and “baseless” characterisation of President Joe Biden as “soft on crime”, and not general concerns about crime, which she called a “serious issue”.

“What I was speaking to was a chyron on Fox News, since you raised it, which suggested this administration is soft on crime with no basis,” the press secretary said.

She went on to mention the president’s support for community policing programs and budgetary efforts to increase federal funding for local law enforcement agencies, as well as the unified GOP opposition to the American Rescue Plan which included provisions for local law enforcement agencies to buy new equipment and hire more personnel.

“President Biden has proposed a significant increase for local cops’ funding in his budget,” she said, adding of the GOP opposition to a bill that provided funding to local law enforcement groups: “I know Republicans don’t like it when we call that out. I’m going to keep calling that out.”

Addressing the issue of crime as whole, Ms Psaki took the opportunity to jab at former President Donald Trump’s record on the issue before saying it should not be a “political football”.

“I think we all agree or should agree that violent crime is a serious problem. We actually saw a record jump in murders in 2020, under the former president,” she said.

“Our view is rather than turn this into a political football…we need to be focused on keeping our communities safe,” said the press secretary.

The Independent has reached out to Fox News for comment on Ms Psaki’s remarks.

The network’s hosts and other right-leaning media organisations including the Daily Mail have relentlessly criticised the White House over efforts pursued by some municipalities to reform law enforcement and deal with the unique issue of incarceration amid the Covid-19 pandemic. America’s prisons have emerged as hotspots for the virus where incarcerated Americans in many states lack access to masks and are kept in close confinement with others in oftentimes poorly-ventilated rooms. Many progressive activists have argued that the risk of Covid infection (particularly before vaccines were widely available, but in the present as well) is too great to justify keeping nonviolent offenders or those judged not to be a serious risk to the community incarcerated during the pandemic, and have harshly criticised pretrial detentions for the same reason.

During the interview with Pod Save America, the press secretary laughed off criticism from Fox’s Jeanine Pirro over the consequences of the White House supposedly embracing “soft-on-crime” approaches and added: “There's an alternate universe on some coverage...What's scary about it is a lot of people watch that. They think that the president isn't doing anything to address people's safety in New York and that couldn't be further from the truth.”

The press secretary faced sharp rebukes for her words from former members of the Trump administration as well as a Twitter account operated by the House GOP caucus.

The White House has been forced in recent months to respond to images of massive mob-style robberies of high-end stores as well as reports of jumps in other areas of crime including carjackings as well as a soaring homicide rate inherited from the days of the Trump administration.

Mr Biden is set to visit New York City later this week to discuss gun crime with Eric Adams, the city’s newly elected mayour.

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