President Biden delivered a sarcastic answer Wednesday to a reporter’s question about the ongoing evacuation of Americans from Afghanistan — but viewers couldn’t hear it because the audio feed from the White House cut out.
As the president wrapped up the public portion of a cybersecurity event, NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander asked: “Mr. President, if Americans are still in Afghanistan after the [Aug. 31 withdrawal] deadline, what will you do?”
Biden initially ignored the question, leading Alexander to ask again: “Sir, what will you do if Americans are still there after the deadline?”
That’s when the audio dropped out.
However, Alexander later tweeted that Biden answered: “You’ll be the first person I call.”
An official White House transcript confirmed the statement.
Some critics accused White House staff of trying to shield Biden, while others blasted the commander incchief for giving a flip response to a reporter during an international crisis.
“Biden’s behavior in this is becoming obscene,” tweeted John Daniel Davidson, the political editor of The Federalist.
“If he is serious, that’s an issue,” Sean Spicer, who served as White House press secretary under former President Donald Trump, reacted. “If he’s trying to be funny about something this serious and screwed up, that’s also an issue.”
Spicer later questioned why the audio of Biden’s exchange with Alexander was cut and asked whether the “feckless” White House Correspondents’ Association would “say anything” about the matter.
“Americans were already worried that Joe Biden has no plan,” tweeted Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “This won’t help.”
“When Joe Biden does take questions, his handlers screen reporters and provide him a list of preapproved reporters to call on,” Cruz adviser Steve Guest chimed in. “Now, The White House is cutting the audio feed when a reporter tries to ask him a question. Operation Protect Joe Biden is in full swing.”
“Oh my gosh they cut the President’s microphone so nobody could hear him answer,” added GOP communications specialist Matt Whitlock. “That’s how worried this White House is about Biden answering questions on Afghanistan.”
The White House did not respond to requests for comment.
Biden made the joke shortly before Secretary of State Antony Blinken estimated that up to 1,500 American citizens remain in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan with less than a week to go before the withdrawal deadline set by both the White House and the Islamic fundamentalist group.