Sullivan rips reporter’s question on Biden swearing as asking ‘when did you stop beating your spouse?’

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National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan likened a journalist asking about a report that President Biden had grown angry and swore over tanking poll numbers to a “when did you stop beating your spouse question.” 

Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy confronted Sullivan during the White House’s daily press briefing about a report published by NBC News with the headline, “Behind the scenes, Biden has grown angry and anxious about re-election effort.” 

Citing an unnamed lawmaker, the report claims that during a private meeting at the White House in January, Biden “began to shout and swear,” when allies of the president told him about slumping poll numbers in the battleground states of Michigan and Georgia over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war. 

“There’s a report that when President Biden was told his handling of the war between Israel and Hamas was starting to affect his poll numbers, the quote is he began to shout and swear. So when he does that, is he shouting and swearing about Netanyahu or about Hamas or about his poll numbers?” Doocy asked Sullivan on Monday. 

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White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, March 18, 2024.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“This is the ‘when did you stop beating your spouse’ question because I don’t think he ever did that,” Sullivan responded. 

“Excuse me?” Doocy interjected, before Sullivan continued. 

“Well you use that as the premise of your question, which is when he does that. He – I’ve never seen him do that shout or swear in response to that. So from my perspective, that particular report is not correct,” Sullivan said. 

Biden and Netanyahu split image

President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke Monday, March 18, in their first interaction in more than a month as the divide has grown between allies over the food crisis in Gaza and conduct of war.  (AP Photo)

Earlier, Doocy had asked Sullivan about why Biden has allowed 32 days to pass between phone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

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“First of all, our teams are in contact every single day at every level. President Biden gets a daily – twice daily, sometimes nine times daily – update on what is going on. And he reserves his calls for the prime minister for when he believes there’s a clear, key strategic moment that needs to come forward,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan takes reporter's question

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan takes a question from a reporter during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, March 18, 2024.  (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“Point two, the prime minister, of course, knows how to reach President Biden. If the Prime Minister felt he needed the president for some reason, he would have picked up the phone and called. And of course, in the last 32 days, President Biden has never declined a phone call from Prime Minister Netanyahu,” he added. 

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Sullivan said the gap was evident of “the normal give and take of two leaders, both operating their governments, both operating their foreign policies, both working with their teams, and then at a key inflection point in the dialogue between the two sides coming together and talking. I wouldn’t make more of it than that.”

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