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White House responds to criticism of Biden's 'Neanderthal' comment

'It's imperative...to listen to the guidance of public health experts'
Jen Psaki press secretary
Posted at 12:13 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 14:01:57-05

White House press secretary Jen Psaki faced questions regarding the harsh language President Joe Biden used Wednesday in criticizing states that chose to lift mask mandates against the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Wednesday, Biden decried the "Neanderthal thinking" of the governors of Mississippi and Texas, who chose this week to announce they would soon lift mask mandates.

“President Biden said allowing Mississippians to decide how to protect themselves is ‘neanderthal thinking,’” Reeves tweeted on Wednesday. “Mississippians don’t need handlers. As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them.”

When asked how Biden's language was helping sway Americans skeptical of masks, Psaki said Biden's comments were the result of "his frustration and exasperation" with Americans who aren't heeding the advice of public health experts.

"For almost a year now, people across the country have sacrificed. They haven't had the information they've needed from the federal government. They haven't had access to a greater understanding of what the public health guidelines should look like," Psaki added. "He believes, with more than half a million lives lost, as families continue to suffer, that it's imperative, across the country, whether they live in a red state or a blue state, to listen to the guidance of public health experts."

The White House briefing came as the Senate nears the passage of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus package.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats reportedly agreed with more moderate caucus members to limit the margins of which Americans will be eligible for a stimulus check. While the Biden administration faces criticism from progressives for negotiating against itself, there’s little room for error in the Senate where Democrats only have power via Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-break vote.

However, the bill still includes $1,400 checks for all individuals earning less than $75,000 and couples earning less than $150,000. Also remaining in the bill are $400 weekly payments in unemployment insurance for those who have lost their jobs amid the pandemic.

While the bill could be voted on in the coming hours, it will likely be delayed by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., who has insisted the entirety of the 700-page bill be read aloud on the Senate floor. Johnson has claimed the bill should be read in its entirety because he says not enough of the substance of the bill relates directly to the virus.