White House claps back at Charlotte radio station after claim that spox hung up on hosts

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stepped into what some might consider the lion’s den in an interview on WBT Charlotte, prompting a controversy that the White House says was manufactured and misrepresented.

Jean-Pierre spoke on WBT Charlotte with station news director Mark Garrison. During the talk, she was asked whether President Joe Biden had dementia and how he could woo voters to support him for re-election when North Carolinians are struggling with high prices on groceries and gas prices.

After answering the question on gas and grocery prices, arguing that the current President inherited an economy “in a tailspin because of the last administration” and saying “those prices have gone down because of what this President has been able to do,” Jean-Pierre thanked Garrison, told him to have an amazing day and hung up.

The station posted audio of the interaction, saying Jean-Pierre hung up on hosts abruptly. In the audio, after Jean-Pierre says to “have an amazing day,” audio can be heard of what sounds like a busy signal, indicating she had ended the call.

But White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates fired back, telling the Daily Beast that the station “chose not to air the full interview and instead artificially attached a sound effect that our phones do not make when calls end.”

Indeed, the busy signal heard at the end of the call shared by WBT is not something typically heard in real life phone conversations in 2024, or even any time in recent years.

Bates also told the Daily Beast that Jean-Pierre had accommodated the station’s request for an on-air interview and made clear that she was cramming them into a back-to-back schedule and would only have seven minutes.

“Once the agreed-upon time was over, she called into the next interview so everyone could get their full time,” Bates told the publication.

WBT did not respond to a request for comment from the Daily Beast, the outlet said.

In the audio provided by the radio station, Garrison can be heard first asking Jean-Pierre if the President has dementia. Jean-Pierre responded, saying the question is “incredibly offensive.”

“Let me be very clear about this. For the past several years, the President’s physician has laid out in a comprehensive way the President’s health,” she said.

“This is a President who if you watch him every day, if you really pay attention to his record and what he has done, you will see exactly how focused he’s been on the American people, how historic his actions have been. And so I’m not even going to truly, truly, really, you know, take the premise of your question. I think it is incredibly insulting, so we can, you know, move on to the next question.”

Garrison followed up with a question about high gas and grocery prices in the state, asking, “how does Mr. Biden win votes when people don’t have as much disposable income?”

She offered an in-depth response, beginning first with typical political answers about how Biden understands and “grew up in a middle-class family, a working-class family in Scranton,” before getting more specific and targeting former President Donald Trump.

“When the President walked into this administration, there were multiple problems happening. There was COVID, the economy was in a tailspin because of the last administration, because of what President Trump left us with, now you’re asking about gas prices. The President took action on gas prices,” Jean-Pierre said.

“Let’s not forget, the Russian invasion of Ukraine skyrocketed prices of gas, and because the President took action we are in a different place than we were a year ago on gas prices. Eggs, milk, seafood products, all the important groceries — those prices have gone down because of what this President has been able to do,” she added, before the audio of her ending the call plays.

“Wow, she hung up,” Garrison lamented as another host in the studio exclaimed in the background, “wow.”

While Garrison isn’t overtly partisan in his radio shows and podcasts, he does often use language and terms typically associated by conservative figures and frowned upon by more liberal and progressive individuals.

For example, in a podcast with an “exclusive” about Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson running for Governor, Garrison used the term “LGBT lifestyle.” In another with an interview with swimmer Riley Gaines, who has become a prominent activist fighting against the inclusion of transgender women and girls in women and girls’ sports, Garrison used the term “biological boys,” a term rejected by the transgender community and avoided by Democrats and other left-leaning figures.

And the station itself skews conservative, with hosts such as Brett Winterble who previously worked on the far-right Newsmax TV, and Pete Kaliner, who has hosted in recent weeks shows criticizing the Biden administration and lamenting the “expansion of government” created through the Affordable Care Act, which he calls Obamacare.

Jean-Pierre was speaking on the station the same day Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were in North Carolina as part of a swing state push following Biden’s State of the Union Address earlier this month. In North Carolina, the pair were touting the Affordable Care Act and highlighting how it was helping North Carolinians who now have access to expanded Medicaid under the landmark law passed when Biden was Vice President under former President Barack Obama.

Gov. Roy Cooper appeared with Biden and Harris and asked Congress to extend tax credits under the health care law and take action to lower prescription drug prices.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. In early 2022, she left the business to serve as Communications Director for St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch. After leaving the administration, Janelle briefly worked as a communications consultant for candidates, businesses and non-profits, before accepting her position as Publisher for Southeast Politics, a homecoming of sorts to her Florida Politics roots, where she served as a reporter and editor for several years. Janelle has also held roles covering the intersection of politics and business for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and general assignment news with an emphasis on social justice and climate change for WMNF Community Radio, where she also hosted a political call-in show under several names, including Last Call, Midpoint and The Scoop. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]

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