Joe Biden’s incoming White House press secretary says online commenters who shared a 2014 photo showing her wearing a pink hat bearing a hammer and sickle insignia are “unwitting” puppets of the Kremlin’s “propaganda machine.”
The photo: Jen Psaki, who was serving as a spokeswoman for the State Department at the time, donned the symbol commonly associated with communism during a diplomatic event in Paris in January of 2014.
- The ushanka-hat was reportedly a gift from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who posed alongside her and then-Secretary of State John Kerry for the photo.
The reaction: After reports emerged over the weekend that Psaki was among the seven women tapped to serve as top staffers on Biden’s communications team, conservative commentators drew attention to the photo, highlighting the hammer and sickle, which for some is a distasteful symbol of a bloody ideology.
Other felt the photo served as an ironic rejoinder to the Democratic Party’s fixation on President Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia.
“It’s amusing now, of course, in light of Russia frenzy Psaki’s party later whipped up. Of course the circumstances of the picture were innocent, but so were circumstances of Jeff Sessions’ meet-and-greet in 2016, about which he and others were questioned by Mueller,” tweeted Washington Examiner chief political correspondent Byron York, referencing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
Psaki responds: On Tuesday, Psaki addressed the controversy on Twitter, suggesting she’d been the victim of a Russian disinformation campaign.
- Psaki said the purpose of such attacks “is to discredit powerful messengers and to spread misinformation to confuse the public.”
- “Anyone who repeats it is (unwitting or not) simply a puppet of the propaganda machine,” she added.