There has been renewed talk of a possible economically devastating railroad worker strike after months-long negotiations between several labor unions and railroad companies’ management broke down in spite of a tentative agreement that the Biden White House helped broker back in September.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden told reporters that he hasn’t been “directly involved” in those negotiations, which completely contradicts the repeated assertion just days earlier from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre that Biden has indeed been “directly involved” in those talks, Fox Business reported.
Now the White House is scrambling to try and spin away that contradiction, as an unnamed official told the media outlet that Biden “is involved in the process as Karine said, but not the negotiations between the unions and companies themselves.”
Biden says he’s “not directly engaged” in railroad worker labor dispute
President Biden met with local firefighters on Thanksgiving Day while vacationing on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts and stopped to speak briefly with reporters after that event.
Asked if he was involved in and could discuss the negotiations to avert the potential railroad workers’ strike, Biden said, “I can’t because it’s in the middle of negotiations still.”
When pressed if he was “involved” or in touch with the disputing parties, the president replied, “My team has been in touch with all the parties, in rooms with the parties. And I have — I have not directly engaged yet because we go — they’re still talking.”
How many times did Jean-Pierre use the phrase “directly involved”?
Yet, just two days prior to that, during Tuesday’s briefing, the transcript shows that press secretary Jean-Pierre said explicitly no less than eight distinct times that President Biden himself was “directly involved” in the ongoing discussions and negotiations to avoid the potential strike by labor unions.
Asked initially for an update on the possible strike and if Biden was “talking to” the parties involved, Jean-Pierre provided some background and then said, “The President is indeed involved directly, but I don’t want to get into details at this time. But he has been involved.”
Another reporter noted that one of the union leaders had complained of “no real engagement” by the White House, but the press secretary fired back, “Well, we have said — look, there’s a tentative agreement, as you all know about, and we have said — the President — I just said the President has been directly involved. He’s been in touch.”
Asked to explain how Biden was involved, Jean-Pierre said, “No, I just said he’s been direct — I said — this is the third time I’m saying he’s been directly involved. You’re talking about one union president; there are 12.” A moment later she further asserted, “Yes, the President has been — clearly, he’s been — held — he’s been briefed, but he has actually been directly involved. I’m not going to get into more details on that.”
Either Biden or Jean-Pierre is not being truthful
Following a few questions on other things, the topic was raised again about the level of Biden’s involvement, to which the spokeswoman again stated, “So I could say this: He’s been directly involved since before there was even a tentative agreement,” and then added, “The President has been kept abreast as to what is happening. And he has been directly involved because he understands how important it is to make sure that we do not have a real shutdown, because, as I laid out, it would have a steep — a really serious effect on American families.”
Jean-Pierre went on to use the phrase “directly involved” at least two more times in response to additional follow-up questions about Biden’s level of participation in the negotiations, which means that either the president lied to reporters on Thursday about not being directly involved in the labor talks or his chief spokeswoman lied repeatedly to the media and the American people by repeatedly claiming on Tuesday that he was “directly involved.”