It wasn’t until nearly three months into the national formula shortage which caused starving infants in multiple states to be hospitalized that President Joe Biden and his team finally bothered to mention the government-induced crisis.
Since the Food and Drug Administration shutdown of one of the country’s largest infant formula plants in February, parents in the U.S. have been struggling to find the right baby food required to keep their children alive. Biden, however, claims that he wasn’t aware of any issues with the formula supply chain until April when the national out-of-stock rate for formula hit 30 percent.
“I don’t think anyone anticipated the impact of the shutdown of one facility, in, uh, the Abbott facility,” the Democrat said. “Once we learned of the extent of it and how broad it was, we kicked everything into gear and I think we are on the way to be able to completely solve the problem.”
Biden’s claim that no one could have predicted this emergency is denied by multiple baby formula industry executives who all issued similar warnings about the impact a facility shutdown would have on Americans.
“We knew from the very beginning this would be a very serious event,” Reckitt executive Robert Cleveland said.
Yet neither Biden nor the White House can seem to pinpoint when exactly the president was made aware of the problems plaguing American babies.
“Didn’t the CEOs just tell you they understood it would have a very big impact?” a reporter asked.
“They did but I didn’t,” Biden replied.
When reporters pressured new White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to answer exactly why it took 6-8 weeks for Biden to be briefed on the gravity of the issue, she said she couldn’t provide a timeline for the administration’s response.
That’s a drastic change in messaging from early May when Jean-Pierre claimed the shortage was a “top priority” for the White House.
“This is an urgent issue that the FDA and White House are working 24/7 to address,” she said.
That was, of course, shortly before she laughed in response to questions about “who is running point on the formula issue at the White House?”
“At the White House, I don’t know,” Jean-Pierre said through laughter on May 11. “I can find out for you and get you a person who is running point.”
It was also shortly before outgoing Press Secretary Jen Psaki blamed formula problems on retailers, stockers, and alleged baby formula hoarders, while the White House Instagram page advised parents to “use a different brand of formula” and “call your OB/GYN or pediatrician” to request supplements.
The Biden administration eventually tried to soothe Americans’ formula panic by invoking the Defense Production Act, striking a reopening deal with the formula plant that had been shut down, and flying in the product from Europe. But not even Biden’s imports could distract from the fact that the White House waited weeks to address a crisis that children’s lives at stake.