Press secretary Jen Psaki was questioned about President Joe Biden’s taking a knee as he welcomed the WNBA champions Seattle Storm on Tuesday, the first time a pro basketball team visited the White House since Barack Obama was president.
Reports noted that some of the Storm’s star players, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, visited along with head coach Noelle Quinn and majority team owners Ginny Gilder, Lisa Brummel, and Dawn Trudeau, made the White House visit, along with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert.
At one point, Biden joked with Stewart over her choice of college.
“Breanna is from Syracuse, New York. I went to Syracuse. How come you didn’t? You went to Connecticut. I remember … I just want to let you know I remember,” the president told her.
During a photo op session, Biden knelt in front of the team, leading to some speculation that it was done in support of leftist police reforms, which Republicans have decried as unworkable and responsible for increases in crimes in major cities.
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) August 23, 2021
During a subsequent press conference, Psaki was pressed by The Grio’s White House correspondent April Ryan, formerly of American Urban Radio Networks, about voting rights activists who protested outside of the presidential residence earlier in the day.
“What is the thought behind that from the White House as people of all walks of life are out there saying that he needs to do more, that this president is not doing enough for the constituency that he said that he was going to work for?” Ryan asked.
After Psaki explained that Biden supports voting rights, she added, “He’s maybe not the right target of their frustration, you know, because his objective is also to get voting rights legislation passed, and he would like to sign that legislation into law.”
Unsatisfied, Ryan pressed by blaming the president’s refusal to side with progressive extremists in the House and Senate who want to ditch the long-standing filibuster rule.
“But he doesn’t believe in ending the filibuster, and that’s the big hurdle in the Senate. And they are saying that we are now voting like we voted in 1964. Voting rights has been stripped by the Supreme Court twice, and now there are restrictive laws in states that are precluding free and fair voting in this nation,” she continued without citing specific examples.
“Absolutely, April. And it’s outrageous, and the President is outraged by it,” Psaki responded.
“And that’s why he has asked his Vice President to lead this effort. That’s why he has taken steps, including a historic executive order on voting rights,” she added. That’s why he has supported the efforts by the Attorney General and the Department of Justice to continue to take steps that are at their disposal to crack down on these abuses across the country and why he will continue to make this a central priority for him.”
Psaki tried to move on but Ryan flagged her down again to ask about the president’s kneeling.
“We don’t know what happened yesterday. Was he in support of — taking the knee in support of police reform, or was he just kneeling? Because we were told to ask you,” the correspondent said.
“Well, the President certainly supports police reform, but he also was taking a photo with a sports team, and he has also kneeled in other occasions with sports teams in the past,” Psaki replied.
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