We learned this week that a White House aide had tested positive for Covid-19 despite having been fully vaccinated against the virus.
How did we find out this information, you ask? Axios broke the story, which was quickly confirmed by CNN and virtually every other major media outlet. The White House had said nothing about it. Not a word – until after, of course, the news had been reported. Which is a problem.
Why? Because, well, candidate Joe Biden bashed President Donald Trump on transparency during the 2020 campaign. Here’s one example, from The Washington Post in March 2020:
“Joe Biden on Friday criticized President Trump over his administration’s response to the novel coronavirus, blaming him for the country’s testing shortage and accusing him of a lack of transparency.”
Almost a year later, Biden held a news conference as president in which he referenced why he had run for the nation’s top office: “I said, ‘I’m running for three reasons: to restore the soul, dignity, honor, honesty, transparency to the American political system.’ “
None of this is to make an apples-to-apples comparison between Trump’s utter lack of transparency and what the Biden administration did regarding its latest Covid-19 case.
But again, Biden pledged to be far BETTER than Trump on issues of transparency. And that matters when we are talking about people who work in and around the White House.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki, when asked directly about Covid-19 breakthrough cases in the building on Tuesday, tried to tread a VERY fine line.
“There have been,” she said. “I will say that we, according to an agreement we made during the transition to be transparent and make information available, we committed that we would release information proactively if it is commissioned officers.”
Commissioned officers are people who have “assistant to the president” in their title, which is more than 100 people but far from all of the people who work in the White House. As CNN’s Betsy Klein reported Tuesday, “Psaki declined to say how many breakthrough cases had been recorded, or what level of staff was affected.”
On Wednesday, under pressure, the White House shifted policy. Psaki said that going forward the White House would release Covid-19 cases when the person infected is determined to have come into close contact with President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris or their spouses.
The Point: With the Delta variant surging and mask mandates being reinstated, it’s up to the White House to lead on the transparency issue. And they simply aren’t doing it.