“We didn’t reject it,” Biden told New York Post reporter Steven Nelson before departing the White House for Marine One on Monday.
“My question: ‘Why did your administration reject a holiday testing surge in October? Does the buck stop with you there?’ President Biden: ‘We didn’t reject it'” Nelson said in a follow-up tweet with additional context.
Yet Biden also made an admission about his handling of rapid tests in a call with several U.S. governors on Monday morning, saying, “It is not enough. It’s clearly not enough. If I had – we – had known, we would have gone harder, quicker, if we could have.”
“The Biden Administration Rejected An October Proposal For ‘Free Rapid Tests For The Holidays,’ the Vanity Fair piece, published last week, alleged. This was despite President Biden telling ABC News, “I wish I had thought about ordering” 500 million at-home tests “two months ago.”
Writer Katherine Eban reported that their publication had obtained a 10-page plan from testing experts outlining steps to provide rapid at-home COVID-19 testing to Americans, calling for an estimated 732 million tests per month. The method, which was reportedly provided to Biden officials on a Zoom call on October 22, could have avoided the current lengthy lines for rapid tests in major cities across the country, Eban suggested. But, the experts were told shortly after the meeting that their idea was “dead,” according to the report.
“Three days after the meeting, on October 25, the COVID-19 testing experts—who hailed from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Rockefeller Foundation, the COVID Collaborative, and several other organizations—received a back channel communication from a White House official,” Eban wrote. “Their big, bold idea for free home tests for all Americans to avoid a holiday surge, they were told, was dead. That day, the administration instead announced an initiative to move rapid home tests more swiftly through the FDA’s regulatory approval process.”
An administration official said they didn’t have the capacity at the time to approve the plan, Eban reported. Instead, the White House implemented “smaller-scale plans.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took heat for flip-flopping on the issue of mass COVID-19 test distribution earlier this month. She first laughed off the idea at a press briefing.
“Should we just send one to every American?” she sarcastically asked NPR reporter Mara Liasson, who posed the inquiry. “Then what happens if you—if every American has one test? How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?”
But the White House later announced that starting in January 2022, it will launch a website that will allow Americans to order free at-home testing kits.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t leave this podium and wish I would have said something with greater context or more precision or additional information. That day, there was a lot of good questioning on testing,” Psaki said after she was confronted about her earlier dismissal. “And during that briefing I conveyed a lot of information about our expansion of testing about the 50 million tests, about the 20,000 free testing sides. And should I have included that additional context in that answer? Yes.”
Twitter skeptics implored the White House gaggle to pepper Biden with follow-up questions on the rapid testing claims, but predicted the president’s retort would largely “settle” matters with the press.
“Well that’s settled,” conservative writer Stephen Miller said, later adding, “Let’s see if this causes a 5 alarm fire in the press. All hands on deck guys.”