Washington Post gives White House 'Three Pinocchios' for claiming Republicans are defunding police
'White House advisers are trying to turn the tables on the GOP with a new talking point'
The Washington Post's Fact-Checker dinged the White House for claiming Republicans were "defunding the police," giving the eyebrow-raising talking point "Three Pinocchios."
Recent remarks by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and senior Biden adviser Cedric Richmond had sought to turn the tables on months of some progressive Democrats advocating for slicing or even dismantling municipal police department budgets. Their logic was GOP opposition to the $1.9-trillion coronavirus relief bill passed this year amounted to supporting defunding police, since $350 billion was allocated for state and local government aid.
"Although Republicans all opposed Biden’s coronavirus relief package, no one voted to cut, or defund, anything. Rather, Democrats proposed $350 billion in emergency funds for state and local governments, and Republicans voted against those extra funds. That’s not a reduction," the Post's Salvador Rizzo wrote.
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President Biden has resisted efforts from the left flank of his party to call for police budget cuts, but the efforts by his White House to shift the label of anti-police to Republicans appeared to demonstrate the damage of even the appearance of that position. Despite the brazenness of the White House's claims, some liberal media figures fell in line with the talking point, Fox News reported last week.
While Biden announced last month he wanted cities to tap the emergency $350 billion fund to hire additional police officers, there was no text in the American Rescue Plan itself that mandated those monies go toward policing, Kessler noted.
"In response to our questions, White House officials said Republicans were 'effectively' trying to defund the police by withholding support for the coronavirus relief package and by proposing to claw back some of the $350 billion in state and local aid amid ongoing infrastructure negotiations," Kessler wrote.
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In his conclusion, Rizzo wrote there was no line item in the massive coronavirus legislation to attach to White House claims that Republicans wanted to defund police.
"[G]oing strictly by the bill text, lawmakers had no guarantee that police would get a slice of the pie," he wrote. "What’s more, voting against a one-time infusion of cash is not the same as voting to cut funding, so there is little basis to claim that Republicans are trying to 'defund the police.'"
Even before Rizzo and others hit Psaki and Richmond for their remarks, Republicans had reacted with outrage at the notion they were for cutting police funding.
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"That's like an arsonist showing up at the fire and blaming the fireman," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told "Hannity" last week.
This article previously stated Glenn Kessler wrote the Post's fact-check; it was Salvador Rizzo.