White House press secretary Jen Psaki took aim at critics of President Biden's speech on voting rights, calling objections to his vitriolic tone "hilarious."

"I know there has been a lot of claim of the offensive nature of the speech yesterday, which is hilarious on many levels, given how many people sat silently over the last four years for the former president," Psaki said during Wednesday's press briefing. 

Psaki added that what "is more offensive is the effort to suppress people's basic right to exercise who they want to support and who they want to elect," arguing the election overhaul legislation should not be "a partisan thing."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki

White House press secretary Jen Psaki (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)


"And that's why he gave such a strong speech yesterday," Psaki said.

Psaki's remarks come after Biden's speech promoting election overhaul legislation was characterized by some as "combative" and "aggressive," while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the president's remarks "unpresidential."

McConnell said Biden "called millions of Americans his domestic enemies" in the speech and "shouted that if you disagree with him, you’re George Wallace."

"George Wallace?" McConnell questioned. "If you don’t pass the laws he wants, you’re Bull Connor, and if you oppose giving Democrats untrammeled, one-party control of the country, well you’re Jefferson Davis."

"How profoundly, profoundly unpresidential," McConnell continued. "Look, I’ve known, liked, and personally respected Joe Biden for many years. I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday."

Mitch McConnell and Thune

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The minority leader's harsh words were in response to a portion of Biden's speech in which he implored lawmakers to support the Democratic-led effort to overhaul the U.S. election system, arguing that those who do not support the legislation will be compared to historical villains such as Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis.

"So I ask every elected official in America, how do you want to be remembered?" Biden said during remarks from the Atlanta University Center Consortium, on the campus of Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College. "Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?"

But Psaki brushed off McConnell's scathing critique, saying that Biden considers the Kentucky Republican "a friend" and considers McConnell's opposition to the voting rights legislation "disappointing."

"He considers Mitch McConnell a friend and that is true," Psaki said. "That is why it is even more disappointing that someone who has supported and advocated for voting rights in the past... and repeatedly voted for the extension of voting rights protections is on the other side of the argument now."

Biden Atlanta speech

President Joe Biden (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)


Psaki added that it was clear that Biden's remarks "struck a nerve" with some Republicans, but argued it is "more irresponsible, unbecoming and divisive" for GOP-led states to "perpetuate the big lie" by passing election security legislation.

"We have seen evidence of that in 19 states which passed 34 laws attacking voting rights," Psaki said, adding "and that's why he's standing up and made the passionate case he made yesterday."