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Dr. Jha Makes Rounds on Sunday Shows, Reiterating Lack of Transparency from Biden Administration

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Dr. Ashish Jha, the COVID-19 response coordinator made quite the rounds on the Sunday shows, following President Joe Biden testing positive for the virus. As was the case with his appearances during last week's press briefings, when Biden's diagnosis was first announced, his segments contained a common theme of a lack of forthcomingness, potentially leaving viewers with more questions than answers, and leading to charges that the Biden administration has certainly been less than transparent when it comes to the president's health. 

It's worth reminding that when a reporter asked during Thursday's press briefing how Biden may have contracted the virus, Dr. Jha said he didn't know, and so he let White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre answer, though the response she gave wasn't even an answer. "I don’t think that matters," Jean-Pierre said.

During his appearance on CBS News' "Face the Nation," Dr. Jha was asked by host Margaret Brennan where Biden might have gotten the virus. He did not respond to that question, though, and he was not further pushed by Brennan. He did respond to Brennan's question on how the president's health is, which Dr. Jha said is "just fine."

Despite a lack of transparency when it comes to making Biden's personal physician, Dr. Kevin O'Connor available to the press, Dr. Jha responded with a "yes, absolutely," when asked by Brennan "do you expect that the White House will continue to make disclosures if he has long-term symptoms from this infection?"

He went on to say:

You know, we think it's really important for the American people to know how well the president's doing, which is why we have been so transparent, giving updates several times a day, having people hear from me directly, hear directly from his physician.

And, obviously, if he has persistent symptoms, obviously, if any of them interfere with his ability to carry out his duties, we will -- we will disclose that early and often with the American people.

Dr. Jha faced very little pushback about the issue from Brennan. She moved on to asking about if a lack of mask mandates concerned Dr. Jha. It was one more question he failed to directly answer, instead recommending masking. "In areas of high transmission, I think it's very prudent for people to be wearing masks indoors, especially if they're in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. That's what the CDC recommends," he responded.

The lack of pushback changed when Dr. Jha made his other appearances, including on ABC News' "This Week."

Early on in his segment, Dr. Jha also promoted vaccines, despite how President Biden has been double vaccinated and received two boosters against the virus, and had previously and falsely claimed that those who were vaccinated would not get and spread COVID. 

"This is really good news," Dr. Jha said about how the president basically has "a mild respiratory illness," going on to say "and this is both vaccines and treatments that are available to everyone. Really important that people go out and get vaccinated and avail themselves of these treatments if they get infected."

Host Jonathan Karl also brought up White House protocols, as one more issue with this administration that is worth criticizing:

KARL: Did -- will this result in any changes in White House protocols? I mean, the White House has loosened up quite a bit. We don't see as many masks. Obviously the White House briefing room is full. Has this caused any rethinking of that?

JHA: You know, look, the protocols around the president I think have been very tight, but this is a president who likes to get out there, meet Americans, spend time with people. The White House itself follows CDC guidelines. When Washington, D.C., is in yellow, we follow the guidelines. When it goes into orange, we go into mask-wearing for everybody. So we are very closely adhering to CDC guidelines on this.

It's worth reminding that Vice President Kamala Harris was criticized for not following protocol during a speech she gave last Friday, without a mask. Dr. Jha and Jean-Pierre were asked about it during a press briefing, and were left speechless. Fortunately for Dr. Jha, Karl did not bring Harris up during the segment.

Karl, however, did bring up the lack of transparency in that Dr. O'Connor has not made himself available:

KARL: And, Dr. Jha, we appreciate you coming in and giving us an update on the president's condition, but you're not his doctor, I mean, as you said, you don't see him in person, you haven't talked to him this morning. Why aren't we hearing from Dr. O'Connor? Why aren't we hearing from the president's physician?

JHA: Well, first of all, you are. Every single day Dr. O'Connor puts out his statement here directly, his words about his assessment of the president.

KARL: Yes, but we're not hearing -- we're not able to ask him questions. We don't -- we see a written statement, we're not actually able to question the president's doctor.

JHA: Look, what I would say, Jonathan, is that we have team of people who are involved. Dr. O'Connor and I are speaking multiple times a day. He's speaking to Dr. Fauci. We are being very transparent, probably giving updates several times a day about how the president is doing. The president has a mild respiratory illness as of right now. And in that context we are making all of that information widely available every day to the American people. And that's what Americans deserve.

It's no wonder that National Journal reporter George Condon charged that "to just put out a statement and shield them from questions would be the least transparency of any White House and 50 years on a presidential illness."

Even more pushback came during "Fox News Sunday," hosted this week by Bret Baier. Not only did Baier bring  up a lack of transparency in that Dr. O'Connor has not spoken directly to the American people, but that doctors did do so when former President Donald Trump contracted the virus in October of 2020, having held multiple press conferences. 

Not only did Dr. Jha criticize the Trump administration, claiming there was "very little transparency," but, with a straight face, claimed "I think this has been an incredibly transparent and open process." 

When even typically friendly press on the Sunday shows is pushing back against this White House's lack of transparency, there's a huge problem on their hands. As usual, though, they'll likely continue to gaslight and blame everyone else. 

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