In response to news that cocaine was found in the West Wing of the White House, Biden administration officials have done their best to deflect and ignore questions about the incident from reporters.
One of the most confusing examples of this trend came when a reporter attempted to get an answer out of White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates.
Referencing speculation by former President Donald Trump that the cocaine might have been dropped by Hunter Biden, who has a long history of drug addiction, or even by President Joe Biden himself, the reporter asked Bates: “Are you willing to say that that’s not the case?”
Instead of providing a “yes” or “no” reply, the White House spokesperson invoked a decades-old prohibition on executive branch employees engaging in political activity.
“I don’t have a response to that because we have to be careful about the Hatch Act,” he said. “What I will say is that I have noticed there does seem to be some increasing frustration coming from that corner in general, and I think it is probably rooted in the contrast between their substantive policy records.”
The seemingly incongruous response evoked bewilderment from Biden administration critics and only fueled more speculation.
Odd that Bates pivots to the Hatch Act and doesn't deny the question… https://t.co/IqELjZ1ylY
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) July 6, 2023
In a statement to Fox News, attorney Bradley P. Moss asserted that he was “candidly at a loss as to why Mr. Bates believes the Hatch Act is relevant with respect to addressing that question,” adding: “I could envision other legitimate basis for declining to respond, such as respecting the integrity of the ongoing investigation, but references to the Hatch Act seem misplaced.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeatedly evaded questions about the cocaine discovery during a press conference this week.
“So, as you know, this is under the purview of the Secret Service,” she said in response to one such query. “They are currently investigating what happened over the weekend. So I would have to refer you to the Secret Service on all of this.”
Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany slammed Jean-Pierre’s reaction and called the situation “inexcusable,” adding: “She brought nothing. I would not have walked to that podium without saying, ‘Secret Service, you have to give me something here.’”
For his part, Bates attempted to defend his rhetoric by claiming that he believed he might run afoul of the Hatch Act by responding to a “comment from a declared candidate” in the 2024 presidential race.