WH Press Sec. Addresses Prominent Black Leaders Calling For A Ceasefire

By Jessica Washington

A chorus of prominent Black progressive leaders have spent the last month urging a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. Many of them have criticized the administration’s response to the crisis — questioning how the White House can continue to back the actions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Since the Oct 7 terrorist attack, which killed 1,200 people, Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza has killed over 11,000 Palestinians, including over 5,350 children.

“I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do the political calculus on this. And I think at a certain point, we have to just stop and say, “They believe it.” They believe it. They believe bombs should be dropped on children. They just think it’s OK. They think it’s OK, or at the very least, they think it’s the price of doing business,” said author Ta-Nehisi Coates about President Joe Biden administration in an interview with Democracy Now.

The Root sat down with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for an episode of our digital show, The 411. During the interview, Jean-Pierre responded to critiques from Black progressives about the White House’s actions in Gaza.

“This is a President that leads with experience, heart, and understands what the American people are going through,” said Jean-Pierre. “He’s been very clear about this moment we’re in, in supporting Israel to continue to go after Hamas so that they can defend themselves.”

Jean-Pierre went on to say the White House is “mourning” any innocent life lost in the conflict. “Any life, any innocent life that is lost, we are mourning that,” she said, adding, “Hamas could surrender at any time. But they seem willing to jeopardize the lives of innocent civilians. This is what Hamas is doing. They can stop this anytime. That is how the President sees this.”

Shortly after the interview wrapped, a U.S.-brokered deal was reached between Israel and Hamas for a four-day pause in fighting in exchange for the release of 50 of the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas.

Jean-Pierre said she could not speak to the political implications of the Biden administration’s actions in Israel because of the Hatch Act, but that they weren’t concerning themselves with polling. “As it relates to the polling, we’re going to focus on what’s ahead, meaning delivering for the American people in doing that work,” she said.