White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki shut down a claim amplified by Representative Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican, that Democrats are handing out "free crack pipes."
Psaki's remarks came as right-wing news outlets–and Boebert–claimed the Biden administration was "funding crack pipe distribution," referring to the administration's 2022 Harm Reduction Program Grant, which was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) under its Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Grant documents offer a list of "harm reduction activities," including "safe smoking kits," toward which municipalities and nonprofits could direct grant funds.
You can hear what Psaki said in the video below.
After a reporter asked if she could "clarify" that crack pipes were "never a part of the kit" or if they had been "removed in response to this reporting and this pushback," Psaki issued the following response:
“They were never a part of the kit; it was inaccurate reporting and we wanted to put out information to make that clear.”
Psaki noted that the kits “may contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.” She also referenced a recent statement that was released by DHHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta because of “inaccurate information out there.”
That statement affirmed that "no federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits."
Psaki stressed that the kits are part of DHHS's Harm Reduction Program, noting that opoid overdoses kill “tens of thousands, if not more, Americans every single day, week, and month of the year."
And while Psaki didn't explicitly mention Boebert, she didn't have to.
The White House's response to the "inaccurate information out there" became necessary after Boebert amplified patently false reporting from right-wing news outlets and declared this week that "the proper role of government is not to fund the distribution of crack pipes."
Boebert, who later claimed that providing crack pipes is a sign of "Democratic priorities," erroneously suggested that President Joe Biden's son, Hunter, who has had a life-long struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, "came up" with the plan.
Many have praised Psaki for her response to blatant disinformation while highlighting the Republican-led effort to purposely mischaracterize the Biden administration's aims.
Boebert isn't the only high-profile Republican to lie about the aims of DHHS's Harm Reduction Program.
Florida’s Republican senators, led by Senator Marco Rubio, have introduced The Cutting off Rampant Access to Crack Kits (CRACK) Act in response to a report from The Washington Free Beacon that alleged the Biden administration is handing out crack pipes.
Rubio said that he is "glad the Biden administration acknowledges sending crack pipes to our nation’s addicts is a bad idea" but characterized his legislation as necessary, saying it "will make certain the [Harm Reduction] program can never pay for crack pipes."