Despite being asked repeatedly during a press briefing on Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refused to either confirm that President Joe Biden had finally invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House or to denounce Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s (D-Wash.) remark that “Israel is a racist state” as antisemitism.
A reporter noted that the White House had stated that it was glad the congresswoman apologized. “But what we didn’t hear was any condemnation of her comment from the White House. Does the White House condemn that comment?”
“So—I mean, look, the apology was the right thing to do. And we’ve been very clear: When it comes to antisemitism, this administration and the entire Biden—Biden-Harris administration have been clear that when Israel is—is singled out because of anti-Jewish hate, that’s antisemitism, and that is unacceptable,” Jean-Pierre said.
She went on to tout the administration’s national strategy to combat antisemitism.
“So the White House does condemn that comment?” the reporter persisted.
“I mean, I just said, if it is—if—anytime anti-Jewish hatred is— said, that is antisemitism, and we—and we find it to be unacceptable,” Jean-Pierre said. “But at the same time, we think it’s important that the congresswoman did indeed apologize for her comments, and we’re glad to see it.”
“I didn’t hear whether it was a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to that question,” the reporter said, switching tactics. “In another vein, there’s a vote happening in the House today, a resolution saying that Israel is not a racist state or an apartheid state. Does the White House want to see strong support for that resolution?” the reporter asked.
Jean-Pierre dodged again. “First of all, we condemn antisemitism. Anytime there is any anti-Jewish hate, we condemn it. We’ve been very clear. That is answering your question,” she said. “As it relates to anything that’s going on on the House, I’d refer you to the House.”
The White House press secretary also declined after being asked several times to confirm whether Biden had invited Netanyahu to the White House.
“Can you confirm a venue for the meeting? Israelis are saying it’s going to be at the White House with Prime Minister Netanyahu, but the White House hasn’t confirmed the venue,” a reporter asked.
“What I can say is the—both the prime minister and the president talked about certainly continuing to be in touch. And so, they’re, you know—both—both of their sides—right?—are—both governments are going to—staff on both governments are going to have those conversations,” Jean-Pierre said. “I just don’t have anything to preview for you at this time.”
“So why the hesitation in confirming the venue?” a reporter asked. Jean-Pierre insisted “There’s no—there’s no hesitation.”
“It does appear that there’s a hesitation to confer a White House meeting on Netanyahu, based on just a lack of willingness to be explicit about that,” another reporter said. “I mean, I would imagine the prime minister will also be at United Nations General Assembly, and that would be another potential venue that would fall into what you were describing yesterday.”
“Is there any reason why the White House wouldn’t make it explicit that a White House invitation has been extended?” the reporter asked.
“I mean, you just laid out: There’s potential other opportunities for the two leaders to meet with each other. As I stated … you know, the details are going to be worked out by the—by the different teams on where—what that’s going to look like and where that’s going to be,” Jean-Pierre said. “But they have committed to meeting and seeing each other in the United States later this year.”
“I just don’t have a specific on location,” she said. “It’s going to be worked out.”