The Biden administration has come under fire for its slow and muted response to the recent train derailment and the environmental disaster that resulted in East Palestine, Ohio.
In a bid to control the damage caused by their initial messaging on disaster relief, the White House dispatched Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to East Palestine for what turned out to be a weird photo op.
“Mayor Pete” was clearly out of his element, and the trip turned out as another public relations fiasco for the White House.
When asked if he had waited too long to address the public about the derailment disaster, Buttigieg weakly stated: “The answer to your question is yes. I felt strongly about this and could have expressed that sooner. I was taking pains to respect the role that I have and the role that I don’t have, but that should not have stopped me from weighing in about how I felt about what was happening to this community.”
Biden is asked if he talked to the Mayor of East Palestine.
“I can't recall…I've talked to everyone there is to talk to”
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) February 24, 2023
Meanwhile, Joe Biden has faced criticism for his lack of interest in visiting the disaster site. In an interview with David Muir, he stated that he couldn’t recall whether he had spoken to the East Palestine mayor, adding that he had “talked to everyone there is to talk to.” He also indicated that he had no plans to visit the site, pointing to a “whole video Zoom” he conducted on the train derailment.
Biden struggled to describe his involvement and whether he had any plans to visit the site. Finally, he said before his speech tailed off, “At this point, I’m not. I did a whole video, I mean, um, what the hell, on….”
A reporter helped Biden by prompting: “Zoom?”
Biden then replied: “Zoom! All I can think of every time I think of Zoom is that song in my generation, ‘Who’s Zoomin Who?’”
Biden’s missteps failed to refute allegations that his administration isn’t doing enough in response to the derailment. Instead, the president could only unconvincingly claim that his team was doing all they could and that he had spoken to every significant figure in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
The train derailment happened on February 3, with a train carrying 50 rail cars, 10 of which were carrying vinyl chloride. Officials conducted a controlled release of chemicals in the days after the derailment due to the risk of a significant explosion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Ohio officials have said that both the air and water in East Palestine are safe. Still, residents have reported various health issues that extend to both them and their pets.
As of Monday, the Norfolk Southern railroad said that 15,000 pounds of contaminated soil and 1.1 million gallons of contaminated water had been removed from the derailment site.
The slow response and lack of interest from top federal officials in visiting the disaster site have also raised concerns about the administration’s priorities and their commitment to the welfare of the people affected by the derailment.