Biden cleans up after confusing mask mandate for Title 42
President Biden issued a rare statement clarifying what he meant to say earlier on Thursday after he gave an answer to a reporter’s question that confused two issues his administration is juggling that both relate to the coronavirus.
Biden had conflated the Title 42 order his administration is lifting that allows officials to turn away migrants at the border due to the coronavirus, with a judicial ruling striking down the travel mask mandate his administration is appealing.
A reporter had asked Biden whether he was considering delaying the lifting of Title 42.
“There’s going to be an appeal by the Justice Department because as a matter of principal we want to be in a position where if in fact it is strongly concluded by the scientists that we need Title 42, that we be able to do that,” Biden said. “But there has been no decision on extending Title 42.”
In a written statement, distributed by the White House less than two hours after those public remarks, Biden clarified that “there is no Department of Justice action on Title 42” and said that he was referring to the mask mandate for travel in response to the reporter’s question.
“I want to clarify that, in comments at the conclusion of my remarks this morning, I was referring to the CDC’s mask mandate and there is no Department of Justice action on Title 42,” Biden said in the statement.
The White House has at times walked back comments Biden has made in public, most recently clarifying that he was not voicing support for regime change in Russia after he said during a speech in Warsaw that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power.”
But such clarifications usually don’t come in the form of a written statement from the president himself.
The Justice Department said Wednesday it would appeal the ruling by a Trump-appointed judge striking down the mask mandate in response to a request by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Biden administration plans to stop enforcing the Title 42 order, which was put in place under former President Trump and kept in place by Biden during the pandemic, on May 23.
Axios reported earlier this week that the White House was considering delaying that timeline, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday that the administration is still “planning and preparing” to lift Title 42 at the end of May.
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