White House press secretary Jen Psaki pointedly declined to say when President Biden’s Friday morning physical was scheduled — but indicated that the press pool wasn’t told until the last minute.
Reporters on the rotating daily press pool regularly are given information about the president’s schedule for planning purposes. But that didn’t happen with Biden’s physical, which included a colonoscopy that required Vice President Kamala Harris to temporarily assume Biden’s presidential powers.
Psaki said that the White House Correspondents’ Association, which coordinates the pool that follows Biden, wasn’t told about the trip until “very early” Friday. The pool wasn’t scheduled to assemble until noon and Psaki’s remark indicated there was no non-public advisory on Thursday evening, either.
Psaki revealed just how abrupt the notice was under questioning from Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy about the “secrecy” in scheduling.
“This morning, we notified the pool‚ the press pool, many of you are part of that and rotate through that. We called the president of the White House Correspondents Association very early this morning, who was awake,” Psaki told Doocy.
“We called the network bureau chief here that’s rotating … and indicated that the president — not only would the pool be gathering, but the president would be going to get a routine physical. I then sent out a tweet to many, many people out there at around 6:15 a.m. and we have put out many, many updates.”
Psaki added that reporters could expect “a comprehensive written summary later this afternoon. That’s pretty standard for how it’s approached, sharing this information. It follows protocols that have been followed in the past.”
But when NBC News reporter Kristen Welker pressed for specifics about when the appointment was made, Psaki avoided answering.
“He wanted to do and committed to do a physical before the end of the year. So this obviously meets that timeline,” Psaki said.
Welker pressed: “Was there any last-minuteness to the decision of his going in today?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t really understand your question,” Psaki said. “To do it or not?”
“To do the physical,” Welker said.
“i’m not sure I’m understanding your question,” Psaki said again.
Welker clarified: “Was this planned days in advance?”
“We had planned to do the physical, yes,” answered Psaki, deliberately skirting the question.
“When was it planned?” Welker pressed. “When did he first schedule the physical?”
Psaki responded by instead mentioning Biden had stayed up late Thursday night to watch the House pass his nearly $2 trillion social and environmental spending bill.
The timing of the doctor’s appointment was an instant source of intrigue because Biden’s physical at Walter Reed Medical Center wasn’t included on Biden’s daily schedule of events, which was released after 8 p.m. Thursday.
Later in the briefing Friday, Psaki brushed off widespread public concern about Biden’s health ahead of his 79th birthday on Saturday. A reporter noted that new polling by Politico and Morning Consult found just 40 percent of people agree that Biden is “in good health” and that 48 percent think he’s mentally unfit.
“I can’t speak to the assessments of voters,” Psaki said. “There is certainly quite a bit of conspiracy theory pushing out there on a range of social media platforms and even through the mouths of elected officials. So that could certainly be a root cause.”