Karine Jean-Pierre defends accusations Biden ignored Hawaii wildfires: ‘He has been talking about this’

White House confirmed on Wednesday that President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden would visit Maui next week

Ariana Baio
Wednesday 16 August 2023 14:51 EDT

Joe and Jill Biden to visit Hawaii to survey aftermath of wildfires

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pushed back on accusations that President Joe Biden failed to address the Hawaii wildfires, saying Mr Biden “has been talking about this.”

Ms Jean-Pierre joined CNN host Phil Mattingly on Wednesday morning to speak about Mr Biden’s efforts in Hawaii, hours after she confirmed that the president and first lady Jill Biden would visit Maui on Monday.

While Ms Jean-Pierre was on the show, Mr Mattingly asked why Mr Biden chose not to address the wildfires in Hawaii for a week. He claimed Mr Biden spoke about the fires for the first time on Tuesday during a speech in Milwaukee.

Ms Jean-Pierre sharply responded to Mr Mattingly’s accusations, saying, “I would disagree with that.”

“When I was with [the President] out there in Utah, he was there to talk about the PACT Act…. at the top of his remarks he talked about what was going on in Hawaii and how we were moving forward with the federal whole of government response. So he has been talking about this,” Ms Jean-Pierre said.

Mr Biden gave brief remarks about the fires on 10 August while in Utah – just two days after the fires broke out.

During his speech, he said: “Our prayers are with the people of Hawaii, but not just our prayers. Every asset we have will be available to them.”

Although Mr Biden has deployed federal assets to Hawaii, and did so shortly after the wildfires ravaged parts of Maui, his public-facing image seemingly did not match his efforts.

The following weekend, Mr Biden took a trip to his home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware where he was photographed relaxing on the beach and riding his bicycle. When reporters questioned the President about the fires he gave vague and short answers.

The White House press secretary has spent much of the last few days defending Mr Biden’s involvement in Maui.

“You saw the FEMA administrator in the briefing room [Monday],” Ms Jean Pierre told Mr Mattingly.

“I just listed out all the things that we have been doing since day one. Day one we have had dozens of federal agencies and departments working with the folks on the ground, doing everything that we can to be helpful and it doesn’t stop there.”

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