WH spox warns media against ‘comments that make this about mental health’ when discussing Buffalo shooting

(Video Credit: The White House)

Newly anointed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre cautioned Washington Post correspondent Seung Min Kim against attributing the Buffalo mass shooting to mental health issues despite the fact that the alleged killer received a mental health evaluation just last year after threatening his entire class.

The attack was the focal point of Monday’s White House press briefing. Reporters were fixated on the issue, salivating over racist connotations and the furtherance of gun control by President Joe Biden.

“A couple of questions on Buffalo. We understand that the shooter did purchase his guns legally, but he did have a history of mental health issues and was held for an evaluation last year. So does the White House believe he should have been prevented from owning a gun because of that history? And how does the administration propose doing so in the future?” Kim asked Jean-Pierre, opening the door for an unforeseen lecture.

“So just give me a second, because I — I really want to touch on this. It’s really important,” she said, appearing to hurriedly and robotically recite from memory a pre-written response.

“Our nation is facing a mental health crisis, so it’s important to call it that — one that is worsened by acts of violence, like the one we saw in Buffalo, that can traumatize communities, especially communities of color,” she said bringing race into the subject matter.

“And anyone seeking support in the wake of shootings like this should contact Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990. Help is available 24/7, 365 days a week — day of the year, I should say — for people who are experiencing emotional distress related to any natural or — or human-caused disaster,” the press secretary remarked.

“We are committed to expanding access to mental health for all Americans. The American Rescue Plan made a historic investment in mental health and substance use — substance use care,” she rattled off.

“And, in his first State of the Union, the president unveiled his vision for transforming mental health in the United States. His comprehensive strategy focuses on building a system that works for everyone by increasing the supply and diversity of the mental health workforce, connecting more people to care by lowering costs and other barriers, and creating environments that help prevent mental health problems and support recovery,” she said, not answering the reporter’s question in the least.

“While we are committed to this work, I want to also underscore that the overwhelming majority of individuals with mental health problems do not commit acts of violence,” Jean-Pierre asserted.

“And so, comments that make this about mental health only further stigma… — stigmatizing mental health issues and detract from the other issues, like gun violence, that must con… — that must be confronted in our society,” she noticeably stumbled while answering. “So, just want to make that clear that we are not stigmatizing.”

“But should he have been prevented from owning a gun?” Kim said, pressing for a real answer.

“I mean, look, this is — this goes back to making sure that, you know, we have gun reform. Right? This goes back to making sure that we — we — you know, the president is going to continue to call on Congress to make that happen,” the press secretary stuttered.

“And so, you know, when it comes — I just wanted to make sure when we talk about mental health, we talk about it in its fullness. And like I said, not every — it’s not — it — you know, not every individual that has a mental health problem commits — commits acts of violence. So, I just want to make sure that we don’t stigmatize it,” Jean-Pierre said, circling back to the mental health issue and, in the end, not answering Kim’s question.

“And just a quick — another one,” Kim added.

“Sure,” Jean-Pierre replied.

“Would the president support the death penalty for the shooter if he’s eventually convicted?” the reporter asked.

“Look, this is being — this is being investigated by — by the Department of Justice. I don’t have — it’s not — it’s not my place from here — this podium — to go be… — to go beyond that,” the press secretary faltered.

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