(CNSNews.com) - President Biden looked around and asked where the late Rep. Jackie Walorski (D-Ind.) was at a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Wednesday despite the fact that she died last month.
“And I want to thank all of you here, including bipartisan elected officials like Representative McGovern, Senator Braun, Senator Booker, Representative — Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? I didn’t think she was — she wasn’t going to be here — to help make this a reality.” Biden said.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was grilled on why the president thought the congresswoman was in attendance when she was killed in a car crash on Aug. 3.
“What happened at the hunger event today? The president appeared to look around the room for an audience member, a member of Congress who passed away last month. He seemed to indicate she might be in the room,” ABC News White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega asked.
“So the president was, as you all know – you guys were watching today’s event, a very important event on food insecurity. The president was naming the congressional champions on this issue and was acknowledging her incredible work. He had already planned to welcome the congresswoman’s family to the White House on Friday. There will be a bill signing in her honor this coming Friday,” Jean-Pierre said.
“So of course she was on his mind. She was of top of mind for the president. He looks very much, looks forward to discussing her remarkable legacy of public service with them when he see her family this coming Friday,” she said.
VEGA: He said, ‘Jackie are you here? Where’s Jackie? She must not be here.’
JEAN-PIERRE: No, I totally understand. I just explained. She was on top of mind. You know, this was an– what we were able to witness today and what the president was able to lift up in this– at this conference, at this event was how her focus on wanting to deal with, combat food insecurity in America, and this is something that he was lifting up and honoring, and again, he knows that he’s going to see her family this coming Friday. There’s a bill signing that’s going to happen and renaming a VA clinic in Indiana after the late congresswoman. He knows that he’s going to see her family, and she was at top of mind.
“If the late congresswoman was top of mind for the president and her family was expected to be here and that’s what he was talking about, why was he looking for her? I’m not trying to be snarky here, but–” CNN White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly asked.
JEAN-PIERRE: No, I mean, and again, I think people can understand, I think the American people out there who watched the briefing from time to time maybe at this moment will understand when someone is at top of mind, and this was such an important, such an important event when we’re talking about hunger, when we’re talking about food insecurity, when we’re talking about these champions, these congressional champions who were in the room, who worked in a bipartisan way.
You know we don’t talk much about bipartisan actions that we see in Congress at this time, and as he was naming folks, he– she was on top of mind, and he understands and knew that he was going to see her family on Friday for this bill signing. Again, I don’t think it’s all that unusual to have someone top of mind, especially as there’s a big event - two big events - today and also Friday that is going to occur, and so he’s going to see her family. They’re going to honor her. They’re going to celebrate her, and he will do a bill signing for this really critical - let’s not forget - this critical, important issue for millions and millions of Americans across the country.
“Sorry to have to do this, but I’m compelled to ask you to one more time ask you the question about Congresswoman Jalorski,” CBS News Radio White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy asked.
JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not sure why. Why? Why one more time?
PORTNOY: Honestly, I think the memory of the congresswoman in history requires some clarity here. Can you explain where the mistake was made? Was the president confused? Was something written in the teleprompter that he didn’t recognize? Can you just help us understand what happened?
JEAN-PIERRE: You’re jumping to a lot of conclusions. No, but I –
PORTNOY: I’m just trying to understand what happened here.
JEAN-PIERRE: I hear you Steven, I’m answering the question that you’re jumping to a lot of conclusions. I just answered the question. If that had been the case, I would have stated that, right? I clearly have stated what you just laid out. What I have said is that she was on top of mind and that he’s going to see her family in just two days time on Friday to honor her, to honor her work, to honor her legacy if you will.
I just mentioned that it’s going to be a renaming of a VA clinic in Indiana in her name, and you know, that is what he was thinking of. He was thinking about her as he was naming out and calling out the congressional champions on this issue, on this really critical issue that’s going to help millions of Americans, and that is what the president was focused on.
PORTNOY: Would you be prepared to release the prepared remarks the president had until the prompter so we can understand?
JEAN-PIERRE: I’m not understanding why that would be necessary. We always share the remarks that the president had even delivered. That’s probably going to be on the website. Not really sure what that has to do with anything. I just answered the question about her being on top of mind. I don’t think that’s any– unusual.
I feel like many of us have gone through that particular time when someone is on top of mind, and you call them out and you mention, especially in this type of context, if you think about how he’s going to see the family in two days, if you think about how when he sees them in two days, it’s going to be for such an important moment, signing a piece of legislation that’s going to rename a VA clinic in her state. That’s important. If you think about this issue and how important this issue is, and again, calling out the congressional champions for this particular issue.
“Lastly, I just want to return to this question that the congresswoman, and I think we all totally get why she’s top of mind. You’ve made that case pretty effectively, but I think the confusing part is why if she and the family is top of mind does the president think that she’s living and in the room?” a reporter asked.
JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t find that confusing. I mean I think many people can speak to sometimes when you have someone top of mind, they’re top of mind, exactly that, and it is also the context. It’s not like it happened without– outside of context, right?
It happened at an event where we were calling out the champions, congressional champions in particular of this issue, this important issue when it comes to food insecurity - something that this administration has led on, led on from the beginning of this administration, not just across the country, but also globally. You heard him talk about food insecurity last week at the UN and the investments that we have forward as the U.S., as the United States in helping deal with that.
Look, he was at an event. You all saw, you all watched, which is why you’re asking the question, right, calling out again congressional leaders, bipartisan leadership that we have seen on this particular issue, and again, he’s going to see her family, in just two days, and she was on top of mind. I mean that is not an unusual scenario there.
“Karine, I have John Lennon top of mind just about every day, but I’m not looking around for him anywhere,” Newsmax Chief White House Correspondent James Rosen yelled out.
“When you sign a bill for John Lennon as president, then we can have this conversation,” Jean-Pierre replied.
“These moments of confusion are happening with increased frequency. Americans are watching… what do say to that? This is a legitimate question. We need to have some answers,” Al Jazeera White House Correspondent Kimberly Halkett yelled out.