White House refuses to say when Biden last tested for COVID-19

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
President Joe Biden walks to the Oval Office of the White House after stepping off Marine One, Monday, June 13, 2022, in Washington.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre clashed with reporters on Thursday over her refusal to reveal the last time President Biden was tested for COVID-19.

Jean-Pierre would only say that the president tests weekly for the virus. In an apparent reversal of previous protocol, she refused to say what day of the week the president was last tested and would not commit to sharing such details in the future.

“If there were close contact, we would share that. We would have the transparency and show that. He just has not been in close contact,” Jean-Pierre said.

The questioning comes one day after Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that Fauci has not been recently in close contact with Biden or other senior government officials.

Under the previous press secretary Jen Psaki, the press would receive regular updates with the date and result of the president’s last COVID-19 test, especially when a high-profile official or member of his Cabinet tested positive. If a test result wasn’t proactively shared, Psaki would commit to sharing it when asked.

A slew of Biden administration officials and Cabinet secretaries have tested positive in recent months but none were considered to be close contacts of Biden, according to the White House.

Administration officials have maintained that it is possible for Biden to one day contract the virus, which at his age would put him at high risk for severe illness. 

NBC’s Peter Alexander went back-and-forth with Jean-Pierre to get a clear answer about whether she would find out the date of the president’s last test and share it with the public.

Jean-Pierre argued that the White House has always said the president has a regular, weekly cadence, to which Alexander shot back: “Jen would say, it happened on Tuesday, just yesterday he had a test, or on Sunday he was tested, it was negative.”

“As soon as you go back there and find out the date, you’ll share with us, you’re saying?” Alexander asked.

“I’m not saying that. I’m telling you that he has a weekly cadence,” Jean-Pierre responded.

“Why has that changed?” Alexander asked.

“What we have said now is if he were a close contact, according to the CDC … the definition of a close contact, we will share that with you and then that’s when his testing cadence would change. His testing cadence has not changed, he gets tested once a week. I don’t have the date in front of me at this time,” Jean-Pierre said.

Alexander questioned if she meant he’s only been tested once a week for the entirety of the administration, arguing in the past he was tested more regularly. 

“That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, what we normally do is, he gets tested weekly and that’s been his cadence as in coordination with his doctor,” Jean-Pierre said.

Other reporters questioned throughout the briefing if the White House has changed its policy on how much they would disclose about Biden’s COVID-19 testing.

“We have always said that he tests weekly,” Jean-Pierre said. 

“You’re asking me when he was tested, I’m saying that I don’t have a date for you at this time,” she added.

“You’re also saying you’re not going to share with us the date,” Alexander later jumped in.

Multiple other reporters joined in, pointing out to Jean-Pierre that this marks a different protocol than in the past.

Matt Viser of The Washington Post then asked if the president had ever tested positive.

“No, he has not. Not that I know of. We should share that. I think that is something we would share,” Jean-Pierre said. “We would be transparent about that.”

Tags Anthony Fauci Biden COVID-19 testing Jen Psaki Karine Jean-Pierre Peter Alexander White House press briefing
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