During a White House press briefing, a Fox News correspondent asked about a false allegation that Vice President Kamala Harris’ book was being distributed to migrant children arriving at a California shelter and she was profiting off of it. Conservative media used the press secretary’s answer that she’d “certainly check” with relevant parties, to fuel outrage that the White House was supposedly avoiding answering the question.
In a since revised April 23 article, the Murdoch-owned New York Post claimed that though Vice President Harris has not visited the border since she was tapped to deal with a growing number of migrant crossings, “a children’s book she wrote is waiting there for young migrants who are being welcomed into the country.” According to the piece, the book, called Superheroes are Everywhere appeared in a so-called “welcome kit” for the children brought to a newly renovated California shelter to deal with underage migrants.
The claim quickly spread throughout conservative media, who questioned whether Harris was profiting off of the alleged distribution and even claimed this was part of Democrats’ “propaganda aimed even at children.” A spokesperson for the California shelter told The Washington Post that they only had one copy of the book and it was donated by a community member during a “book-and-toy drive.” The New York Post then changed the headline to say “at least one migrant kid” received a copy of Harris’ book and removed the claim that the book was being put in kids’ “welcome kits.” But the piece still called the book’s presence an “open-arms gesture by the Biden administration.” (The reporter who wrote the original New York Post story has since resigned. In an April 27 tweet, she clarified that the original article was “an incorrect story I was ordered to write and which I failed to push back hard enough against.”)
Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki about the allegations during an April 26 press briefing. Doocy referenced the New York Post story “that every migrant child being brought to a shelter is being given a copy of” the vice president’s book, before asking, “Why that is and if she is making any money off of that?” Psaki said she would have to check with the Health and Human Services team.
Almost immediately after the press briefing, several right-wing media outlets seized on Psaki’s answers and twisted her statement to claim it showed the White House was avoiding the claim or was unaware about what was going on, even though it was a manufactured story:
- The Daily Wire’s Ian Haworth wrote about Doocy’s question and claimed Psaki was trying to “avoid” it. The story has since been updated that the book was donated by a community member.
- An April 26 Breitbart headline claimed the White House was “unclear why” the book was given to migrants. The piece also claimed that Psaki was “unable to offer a response” to Doocy’s question before baselessly suggesting Harris was profiting off of the “migrant crisis.”
- In a since deleted April 26 New York Post article, reporter Mark Moore wrote that Psaki “didn’t have an answer … when pressed on” Harris’ book.
- During the April 26 edition of Fox News’ Gutfeld!, host Greg Gutfeld said the White House was “not aware” of the presence of the book in a shelter, before suggesting that Harris was profiting off of it. In an attempt at a joke, Gutfeld called it a “weird way to get back on the best seller’s list.”
This is just the latest attempt in a recent pattern of right-wing media asking false or misleading questions during the White House press briefing in order to further faux outrage or bait the press secretary with a type of gotcha journalism.