White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday dodged a question about the relatives of the service members who died in an ISIS-K attack in Kabul last week who said President Biden was dismissive and rude during their meeting with him over the weekend.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, a reporter noted that some of the families had criticized Biden’s conduct when they met with the president after receiving the remains of their loved ones at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
The reporter noted that the father of one marine said that the president appeared to be checking his watch repeatedly during the dignified transfer and the sister of a marine said that the president’s remarks felt “fake and scripted.” The journalist asked Psaki if Biden was looking at his watch and if he has a message to the family members he offended.
Despite the fact that much of the criticism of Biden’s behavior was around how much time he spent talking about his own experience grieving the death of his son, Beau Biden, Psaki responded by saying Biden “knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a child.”
“His message to all of the family members who were there and those who were not even in attendance is that he is grateful to their sons and daughters, the sacrifice they made to the country,” Psaki said. “That he knows firsthand what it’s like to lose a child and the fact that no one can tell you anything or say anything or there’s no words that are going to fill that hole that is left by that.”
She went on to add that neither she nor Biden would “speak to the private conversations” but that the family members “have the right to convey whatever they would like.”
“I will tell you from spending a lot of time with him over the last couple of days that he was deeply impacted by these family members who he met just two days ago, that he talks about them frequently in meetings and the incredible service and sacrifice of their sons and daughters,” she added. “That is not going to change their suffering but I wanted to convey that still.”
The sister of Rylee McCollum, a 20-year-old Marine who was one of 13 U.S. service members killed in the suicide bomb attack outside Kabul airport, told the Washington Post that Rylee’s widow met with Biden and said the president was repeatedly checking his watch and speaking about his son Beau.
“My dad and I did not want to speak to him,” Roice said. “You cannot kneel on our flag and pretend you care about our troops. You can’t f*** up as bad as he did and say you’re sorry.”
Mark Schmitz, whose 20-year-old son Jared was killed in Kabul, told the Washington Post “my interest was lost” when Biden began talking about Beau.
“I’m not trying to insult the president, but it just didn’t seem that appropriate to spend that much time on his own son,” Schmitz said. “I think it was all him trying to say he understands grief. . . . But when you’re the one responsible for ultimately the way things went down, you kind of feel like that person should own it a little bit more.”
Shana Chappell, the mother of Marine Kareem Nikoui, was also critical of Biden in a Facebook post after the meeting on Sunday.
“Remember i am the one who stood 5 inches from your face and was letting you know i would never hug my son again, hear his laugh and then you tried to interrupt me and give me your own sob story and i had to tell you ‘that this isn’t about you so don’t make it about you!!!’” Chappell wrote.