Less than a day after hearing her colleague was killed in Ukraine, Fox News White House Correspondent Jacqui Heinrich sparred with Press Secretary Jen Psaki over how America will respond.
In the last two weeks, journalists Brent Renaud and Pierre Zakrzewski were killed, and Benjamin Hall and Juan Arredondo were wounded.
CNN reported a statement by Andriy Nebitov, “head of the Kyiv region police,” who noted that “Russian forces…cynically kill even journalists of international media, who’ve been trying to tell the truth about atrocities of Russian military in Ukraine.”
Nebitov added, “Of course, journalism carries risks, but the U.S. citizen Brent Renaud paid with his life in an attempt to shed light on how underhand, cruel, and merciless the aggressor is.”
The Fox News correspondent pressed Psaki to see if President Joe Biden, whom the Wall Street Journal labeled one known for “tough talk but little action,” has a “red line” regarding Russia’s incursion into Ukraine.
Heinrich began by noting recent causalities, then reminded Psaki that just last month, Biden said the United States would “respond forcefully if Americans were targeted in Ukraine.”
Heinrich then asked whether or not the White House planned to respond to reports of American journalists in Ukraine being targeted and killed.
Psaki diplomatically responded by saying: “Our thoughts, the president’s thoughts, our administration’s thoughts are with him, his family, and all of you at Fox News.”
Psaki added that “Biden has led the world in “punishing Russia” but has nothing more to “preview” regarding additional punitive steps the administration may take.
Heinrich pushed back on Psaki’s claim that Biden had “led the world” in making sure Russian President Vladimir Putin was “punished” for invading Ukraine and crimes against humanity.
Then Heinrich argued that Biden had not drawn a clear “red line” delineating how and when America would respond, as President Obama had done during the conflict in Syria.
“But we’ve seen the president been so far unwilling to draw a red line on the kinds of atrocities that we’re going to watch from the sidelines,”
Heinrich continued, pointing to former President Barack Obama’s chemical weapons “red line” in Syria. “Any thought process of what we are willing to watch happen?”
Without citing specifics, Psaki reiterated that Biden had led the world in putting pressure on Putin.”
“I think it’s important to reiterate as much as we can that what we are seeing is horrific, what we’re seeing is barbaric and the steps that the president has taken and led the world in taking has essentially led the Russian financial system to be on the brink of collapse,” she said.
Heinrich expressed her concern that without “red lines” and strong American resolve, the atrocities will not stop:
“Is there a concern that if we don’t draw the line at something like chemical weapons, it’ll make it easier for malign actors to use them in the future because they’ll just go unpunished?”
Psaki, absolving America of her responsibility as a world superpower, responded by saying that “the world would certainly respond” if it came to that.
“Well, Jacqui, I think that you heard the president say on Friday that there would be severe consequences and the world would respond if they were to use chemical weapons,” Psaki said. “And what we have been doing over the course of the last several weeks, if not months, is providing as much information to the global community, to the media, and to others about what to expect.”
“And when you have President Putin suggesting — and Russian — Russian officials suggesting that the United States and Ukrainians are the ones who are working on a chemical weapons program, it’s clear that this is a pattern that we’ve seen in the past of them trying to set up a predicate for their own actions,” Psaki added.
Pushing for clarity, Heinrich questioned: “What does that end up looking like if the world responds? Because we’ve heard the President talk a lot about what the U.S. is not going to do … why wouldn’t we think that he would just create a pretext that is fabricated for something like that?”
“We do,” Psaki replied.
In closing the conversation, Psaki reminded reporters that President has the responsibility of weighing how actions will impact Ukraine, Russia, and our own interests, adding that “starting WWIII is not in our national security interests.”
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