Psaki mocks ‘world-renowned business, travel, and health expert’ Ted Cruz for claiming that vaccine mandates contributed to Southwest Airlines delays

Psaki mocks ‘world-renowned business, travel, and health expert’ Ted Cruz for claiming that vaccine mandates contributed to Southwest Airlines delays

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks at the daily briefing at the White House on October 12, 2021.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks at the daily briefing at the White House on October 12, 2021. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

  • Jen Psaki dismissed claims that vaccine mandates are negatively impacting businesses.

  • Psaki called Cruz a “world-renowned business, travel and health expert” during her briefing.

  • Cruz blamed Southwest Airlines’ flight cancellations on vaccine mandates, which the airline denied.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday dismissed recent GOP claims that vaccine requirements are negatively impacting companies, a notion that Republican Sen. Ted Cruz pushed over the weekend.

“Joe Biden’s illegal vaccine mandate at work! Suddenly, we’re short on pilots & air traffic controllers. #ThanksJoe,” Cruz tweeted on Sunday in response to a news report that Southwest Airlines canceled over 1,800 flights.

That report quoted a Southwest spokesperson saying that the airline’s newly imposed vaccine mandate on its employees was not the cause of the flight cancellations. “It’s inaccurate,” the spokesperson told CNBC. “There’s a lot of unfounded rumor and speculation circulating.” Instead, the airline said severe weather problems and air traffic control issues are mainly to blame.

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Yet Fox News reporter Jacqui Heinrich brought up the GOP talking point during Tuesday’s press briefing, asking Psaki: “What’s the White House response to those who say vaccine mandates have reduced the workforce and contributed to this problem?”

Psaki began her reply by referencing Cruz’s comments: “Well I know world-renowned business, travel and health expert Sen. Ted Cruz has made that point. But I wouldn’t say that is widely acknowledged or echoed by business leaders who have implemented these mandates.”

“It doesn’t mean this isn’t hard and challenging – of course it is. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic,” she continued. “But ultimately, the job of the president of the United States is to lead, is to follow the advice of health experts, is to ensure that he is protecting the lives of people across the country.”

Psaki also directly mentioned the “hubub” over the weekend about Southwest Airlines, adding that “we now know that some of those claims were absolutely false, and actually the issues were completely unrelated to vaccine mandates.” 

Cruz later responded on Twitter to a video of Psaki’s comments, saying the White House was “launching snarky insults” at him.

He went on to add that he spoke with a “credible and senior source in aviation” who said there was a “sick out” of air traffic controllers protesting vaccine mandates. 

Cruz’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Several other Republicans who are opposed to federal vaccine mandates, including Reps. Chip Roy, Andy Biggs, and Lauren Boebert, also spread the claims on Twitter.

Besides Southwest Airlines, the pilots’ labor union also denied the rumors coming from conservative circles, saying on Saturday that “our Pilots are not participating in any official or unofficial job actions.”

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