President Biden downplayed the leftist activists who followed Sen. Kyrsten Sinema into a bathroom and videotaped her, calling such actions part of politics.
The president condemned the harassment, in which an illegal immigrant demanded that Ms. Sinema support Mr. Biden’s $3.5 trillion spending bill. But in the same breath at a Monday news conference, he said such attacks happen to everyone.
“I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody,” Mr. Biden told reporters. “The only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them. So it’s part of the process.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki quickly sought to clarify the president’s soft-pedaling of the incident, saying Mr. Biden “shorthanded” his objections.
Ms. Psaki called the activists’ behavior “inappropriate and “unacceptable.” But she also noted they had a First Amendment right to protest.
“Of course, the president stands for the fundamental right of people to protest, to object, to criticize, as they often do outside the gates of White House,” she said.
When asked whether she condemned the protesters’ actions, Ms. Psaki repeated that the incident was “inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Ms. Sinema, Arizona Democrat, issued a statement Sunday criticizing the protesters who followed into a bathroom at Arizona State University, where she is a lecturer.
A video of the encounter showed one activist waiting outside the bathroom stall Ms. Sinema was in, while the other stood at the entrance filming the incident.
One of the activists is heard saying that they can get her “out of office” if she doesn’t support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.
In a statement, Ms. Sinema called the activists’ behavior “unacceptable” and “not legitimate protest.”
She also said their behavior was unlawful because it is illegal in Arizona to photograph or videotape someone in a bathroom.
Ms. Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Virginia Democrat, have opposed the spending plan and blocked progressive Democrats’ wishes to have the bill pass Congress with only Democratic votes.