The Biden administration is being closely scrutinized for its response to the crisis in the Middle East as intense fighting continues. At least 700 people have been killed in Israel since Saturday, according to the Associated Press, in addition to 400 deaths in Gaza, plus countless numbers of wounded and injured.
Conservatives maligned Biden after the White House threw a Sunday party for staffers and their families the day after Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the United States and European Union, unleashed its assault on Israel. In addition to missile attacks from Gaza and fighters sent into Israeli territory, Hamas has reportedly captured Israeli hostages, including children and the elderly. American hostages have been taken as well, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
On Monday, Fox News‘ John Roberts wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that the White House called a lid for Biden at 11:46 a.m. despite “war raging in Israel.” A lid means the White House has told journalists that the president’s public availability will be limited or nonexistent for the day.
“A lid does *not* mean the President has stopped working, as is implied in the *Fox* tweet below,” wrote Andrew Bates, a White House deputy press secretary and senior communications adviser, in response on X. “On the contrary, he’s working to support Israel all day.”
Bates said that Biden met with numerous U.S. officials on Monday morning, including Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall and White House chief of staff Jeff Zients.
Biden was expected to speak with several close U.S. allies this afternoon, Bates added. Newsweek reached out to the White House via email for further comment.
Not speaking directly to the American people or taking questions from reporters has drawn the consternation of Donald Trump supporters and other Republicans.
“You’ve got to be s******* me?!?” wrote Donald Trump Jr. on X. “It’s Monday at noon. Our greatest ally in the Middle East is at war, women and children are being slaughtered and raped in the streets, and our imbecile president is checking out before lunch?”
Georgia GOP Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene said a Donald Trump presidency would have had a stronger response to the crisis.
“We have Americans held hostage by Hamas and Joe Biden is taking the day off,” Greene posted on X. “President Trump would never do this. He would not stop working until he got our people back. None of this would have ever happened in the first place if he were in the White House.”
Florida GOP Representative Byron Donalds, another Trump supporter, also condemned Biden’s response. “Americans are being killed/held hostage by radical Islamic terrorists in Gaza..& where’s Biden?” Donalds wrote on X.
He said Biden “began making calls eight hours late” on Saturday and spoke for less than three minutes without answering any questions the same day. He then questioned the White House party on Sunday and Monday’s press lid.
“This is the ‘Basement Presidency’ in action,” Donalds wrote.
Unsuccessful GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake of Arizona also attacked Biden and his administration.
“There is an international crisis. The border is out of control. Americans are struggling with inflation. @JoeBiden left work before noon. He is unfit for the job,” Lake wrote on X.
“Biden calls a lid before noon. No one in the admin can speak to the number of American hostages. State Dept. deleting tweets. What a terrifying embarrassment,” wrote Dana Loesch, a conservative radio host and former spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, on X.
Trump, who was campaigning in New Hampshire on Monday, said that what is happening in both Israel and Ukraine would have never happened under his watch.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the GOP’s nomination for president, did not mention the press lid but said Monday that any money Biden has made available to Iran must be frozen and that all types of foreign aid to Hamas should be cut off. He also said the U.S.-Mexico border should be “immediately shut down” to protect Americans.
Some conservative politicians, like Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, have suggested that the Biden administration’s approval of $235 million in aid to Palestinians in April 2021 helped Hamas conduct its attacks on Saturday.
That deal included $150 million in humanitarian assistance for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and $75 million in economic and development assistance in the West Bank and Gaza.
But the administration’s National Security Council dismissed that notion and said that $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds that were freed up in exchange for the release of five American detainees were not used by Iran, a Hamas ally, to support its attack on Israel.