WASHINGTON — White House spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday slammed what he called a “ludicrous” and “ridiculous” notion that Saudi Arabia’s government may have deliberately exposed President Biden to COVID-19.
Biden, 79, who had evaded the virus for more than two years, started to develop symptoms last Wednesday, less than four days after he returned to the White House from a trip to Saudi Arabia to make peace with the country’s killer Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“Has the US government ruled out the possibility that the Saudi government may have deliberately exposed the president to the coronavirus?” The Post asked Kirby at the daily White House press briefing.
“I don’t know where this idea is coming from. I don’t know what prompted you to ask it that way. But the idea that a foreign nation-state would deliberately try to infect the president of the United States with a virus is ludicrous, just absolutely ludicrous,” Kirby said.
“There’s nothing to it and it should be treated as the ridiculous idea that that is,” Kirby added.
The White House previously sought to tamp down speculation about where Biden may have contracted the virus. Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week, “I don’t think that that matters.”
The Saudi crown prince, known as MBS, hosted Biden for a two-day visit this month — as Biden sought to repair relations after trying to sideline MBS for his role in the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a Virginia resident, was dismembered by a Saudi hit team using a bone saw inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The US intelligence community assessed that the prince, who is Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, ordered the operation.
Biden sought to thaw relations with MBS after gasoline prices hit an all-time high of more than $5 per gallon in June, contributing to the worst inflation since 1981 and sending Biden’s approval rating as low as 33%.
The CDC says that the median incubation period for the predominate Omicron variant of COVID-19 is 3-4 days, meaning that Biden developed symptoms within the approximate incubation period for the virus.
Biden had few public engagements before falling ill. On the Sunday he was back from the trip, he attended a Catholic church service. That Monday, he had no public events, and that Tuesday, Biden welcomed Ukraine’s first lady to the White House but otherwise had no public events.
The next day, Biden began to develop symptoms of COVID-19 after a day trip to Massachusetts, according to a memo from his physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor.
Biden, who was quadruple vaccinated, tested negative for the virus Tuesday evening after being treated with a five-day regimen of antiviral Paxlovid.