White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to defend Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg by invoking former Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, mistakenly calling her the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
While discussing the backlash Buttigieg has felt over the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Jean-Pierre called out the “bad faith” attacks, suggesting that Chao did not face any backlash during her times as Transportation Secretary.
“I think what’s important is that he was there. I think what’s important is that we saw Secretary of the Department of Transportation there. I do want to say one thing, though, which is there’s been a lot of bad faith attacks on Secretary Buttigieg. And the reason why we believe it’s bad faith is if you remember Elaine Chao, she was you know, she was the head of Department of Transportation and where when there was these types of chemical spills, nobody was calling for her to be fired and nobody was calling for what they’re calling on Secretary Pete,” Jean-Pierre said.
“It is pure politics,” she continued. “It is pure political stunts, what they’re doing. You have seen an administration that has, because of the leadership of this president, has taken action and multi-agency action to deal with the needs that we’re seeing on the ground with the community of East Palestine.”
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After a reporter attempted to ask another question, Jean-Pierre pressed further with the comparison, accidentally referring to Chao as the head of the EPA.
“So I just want to clear something up so on Ohio for a second. So Elaine Chao, who is the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, when she had to deal with-” Jean-Pierre explained.
“DOT,” a reporter corrected her.
“DOT, pardon me, no one called her out,” she said. “Right. When you think about the chemical spills, it is something that the Environmental Protection Agency has to deal with. Right. They are the ones who have to take leadership. And that’s what you’ve seen. That’s what you’ve seen from February 4th until now, which is now Environmental Protection Agency taking charge.”
“So the secretary, Buttigieg being there now, he’s not…the Department of Transportation is not leading this effort. It’s the Environmental Protection Agency,” she continued. “Just wanted to be very, very clear on that. And that is why the attacks that we are seeing on Secretary Buttigieg is really just in bad faith.”
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Social media users quickly attacked Jean-Pierre’s mistake as well as her attempt to excuse Buttigieg by invoking a Trump appointment.
“1) Elaine Chao was a quintessential Trump appointment – corrupt, stupid and incompetent. The calls for her to step down were deafening. 2) ‘Elaine Chao was worse’ isn’t the own this ding dong thinks it is. 3) Pete needs to go,” screenwriter Josh Olson commented.
Guardian columnist David Sirota remarked, “If your only argument is ‘but Elaine Chao was also bad,’ then you’re basically admitting you have no argument and have just given up.”
“She is hilariously bad at her job,” prominent conservative Twitter user Sunny McSunnyFace joked.
National Review contributor Pradheep Shankar tweeted, This is the best they can do. ‘We are as bad as the Trump Administration!’”
“Is she saying there’s an anti-white guy bias? That’s a new one for this bunch,” author Doug Powers wrote.
“She’s such a dumba– she can’t even scapegoat coherently lmao,” podcast host Michael Duncan tweeted.
Elsewhere during the press conference, Jean-Pierre also mistakenly referred to Barack Obama as the president.
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“So today, as you all saw just an hour or so ago, President Obama announced that—Pardon me, President Biden!” Jean-Pierre said. “Whoa! Ahem, that is news. I know, we’re going back not forwards. We’ve gotta go forwards.”