Joe Biden has apologized to the White House press corps for being late to an official press conference Saturday that President Donald Trump had earlier called “pathetic” and “disgraceful.”
“Look, we were playing with elevators,” Biden, the vice president, told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Sunday, explaining the time constraints of an event held at the Singapore summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that closed Saturday afternoon.
Biden’s apology comes as the White House and the press corps have engaged in a war of words in recent days about who was responsible for the recent delay.
The rocky relationship was laid bare when White House press secretary Sarah Sanders accused CNN of purposely delaying a press conference set for Saturday because the network did not plan to cover the event, which, Sanders said, “changed the story.”
Sanders pointed to a tweet from the press office of the foreign affairs ministry of Singapore. It had reported that the White House press conference had been pushed back because CNN “refused to provide written questions in advance” and that “paparazzi were warned and prevented from photographing the event.”
CNN responded immediately, calling Sanders’ accusation “clearly false.”
Later Saturday, however, Sanders clarified that she had “misspoke.”
“I wanted to apologize on behalf of the White House for the President’s comments on Friday. The comments I made regarding CNN were both regretful and incorrect,” Sanders said.
In his apology to the White House press corps, Biden likened it to a game of checkers, saying the White House wasn’t trying to purposely obstruct the press from attending.
“I totally get the problem here,” Biden said. “What you just had was a contrived bureaucratic situation in the sense that they basically wanted to shove all these press corps people in a room, not allow them to move but then grab the elevator when the door opened, I believe it was a C-3PO elevator — the star of ‘Star Wars — and treat us, not knowing we’re there, as though we were dispensable — obnoxious though that may be — that’s, all right, that’s Washington for you. This is no more important than any minor debate that has occurred between Congress and the executive branch over the last 30 years. It doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.”
By 3:30 p.m. local time, when Sanders issued her clarification about the Singapore press conference, the controversy had ballooned into a full-blown war of words, with every side seemingly lobbing charges and countercharges.
“The chaos in the White House is palpable,” CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning. “You have a press secretary who is sending a tweet today about how really regretful she was about saying it was CNN that delayed this press conference. But she acknowledges she misspoke. And then the president says, a few hours later, ‘We’re going to be talking to the press, it’s going to be a real press conference.’ So, why isn’t a real press conference happening? Why isn’t there a chance to get this over with? Why are they pitting the press corps against each other? We deserve better than this.”
CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta said on CNN’s “New Day” Sunday that it was all part of a “sad reality.”
“It’s being blown out of proportion,” he said. “It’s part of the story, but it’s not a big story.”