The chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris, Symone Sanders, repeatedly skipped a question about the Biden administration’s stance on reopening schools.
The story: Sanders, who is also a senior adviser to Harris, made an appearance on CNN this week for an interview with host John Berman that came after CNN’s town hall with the president. During the interview, Berman tried to get Sanders to say whether the administration believes that teachers have to be vaccinated to safely reopen schools in the U.S.
Sanders refused to directly answer his questions several times even as Berman confronted her about dodging them.
The interview: Berman pointed out that the Biden administration has not been transparent about their stance on whether they believe that schools should be reopened only after teachers receive coronavirus vaccines. He then asked Sanders:
“I’m wondering if you can help clear something up here because the answers on this have been hard to come by. Does the White House — does the president think that K-8 schools can reopen even if teachers have not been vaccinated?”
Instead, Sanders talked about President Biden and Harris’ goals when it comes to reopening schools in the U.S. She said they “believe that the majority of K-8 schools will be able to be reopened and operating safely. How does that happen? That happens by ensuring that schools have the resources that they need in terms of mitigation measures, it happens by people social distancing, making sure that we are doing things like wearing our masks, washing our hands frequently.”
Berman called her out. “It’s not a trick question, and I feel like you guys have treated it like a trick question. I think people just want to know what the White House position is on whether or not teachers have to be vaccinated for kids to return safely to school,” Berman told Sanders. “The CDC director Rochelle Walensky says the science is that teachers don’t necessarily have to be vaccinated for kids to return. And I think people want to know what the White House position is on that.”
Sanders did not back down.
“The White House position is that — and the president and vice president believe that teachers should be prioritized for receiving the vaccination, along with other frontline workers. And in at least 22 states and the District of Columbia, that’s exactly what’s happening,” she said.
Berman persisted. “Prioritized is one thing. And I think there’s wide agreement they should be prioritized. And why not? Is it necessary, though? That’s the question. It really is a yes/no question,” he reiterated.
Sanders continued to dodge the question. “Well, John, I think the real question, frankly, if I can be frank here, is what you’re getting to is, is it safe for kids to go back to school? And the president and the vice president —”
Berman interrupted her: “Actually not. In this case, that’s not the question. The question, is it safe for teachers to go back to school? And that’s a very specific question in this case. And, again, I’m not sure — I don’t understand why it’s a hard question to answer. It may be that you want every teacher to be vaccinated. It may be the answer is, [yes], teachers should, if they can, be vaccinated before they return to school, but it’s not necessary.”
“Well, John, I think the president has been clear, the vice president has been clear, and I think I was really clear just now that it is the administration’s position, the president and vice president believe that teachers should be prioritized for vaccinations,” Sanders repeated.
Berman then warned Sanders that he will “try one last time” to ask the same question and when he did, Sanders did not change her answer.
“Does the president — does the president feel that teachers have to be vaccinated in order for schools to open safely, yes or no?” he asked.
“The president believes that teachers should be prioritized for vaccination,” Sanders replied.
CNN’s John Berman confronts VP spokeswoman Symone Sanders on the administration’s position about whether teachers should be vaccinated before kids go back to school: “It’s not a trick question”pic.twitter.com/FMhekdJQGR
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) February 17, 2021
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