So, it looks like the White House is doing damage control on CrackPipeGate. After The Washington Free Beacon published a report on a grant being offered by the Department of Health and Human Services that would fund, in part, the distribution of crack pipes to “underserved” communities, the Biden administration faced outrage coming from conservatives and others. Even Snopes tried to come to the White House's rescue.
The Free Beacon reported:
The $30 million grant program, which closed applications Monday and will begin in May, will provide funds to nonprofits and local governments to help make drug use safer for addicts. Included in the grant, which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, are funds for “smoking kits/supplies.”
These “smoking kits” included, among other implements, pipes that could be used to smoke crack or other illicit substances. However, the White House press secretary recently stated that this was not the case. “They were never part of the kit,” she said during a press conference on Wednesday. “It was inaccurate reporting, and we wanted to put out information to make that clear.”
Psaki says crack pipes "were never a part of the kit. It was inaccurate reporting and we wanted to put out information to make that clear." pic.twitter.com/1mmgc8BIv7— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) February 9, 2022
Several high-profile Republicans have criticized the White House for the program after the report was published. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) tweeted: “Biden is sending free meth & crack pipes to minority communities in the name of ‘racial equity.' There is no end in sight for this lunacy.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) tweeted:
HHS confirms that the Biden Administration is funding crack pipe distribution. They call it harm reduction. The rest of us call it insanity.
Psaki is not the only White House official claiming the reports are false. Health and Human Services spokeswoman Sarah Lovenheim claimed the Free Beacon's report was “blatant misinformation.” They sure love that M-word, don't they?
When asked to clarify what was in the safe smoking kits, she said they could contain alcohol swabs, lip balm, and “other materials to promote hygiene and reduce the transmission of diseases like HIV and hepatitis.”
“I would note that what we're really talking about here is steps that we're taking as a federal government to address the opioid epidemic,” Psaki added.
The grant is designed to assist applicants serving underserved populations, especially the black and LGBTQ communities. It is a part of an executive order that President Biden issued shortly after taking office.
“As the statement makes clear, we don't support federal funding, directly or indirectly, for pipes,” Psaki concluded.
So, if we are to believe the White House, the whole kerfuffle over crack pipes is a giant heaping of nothing on a sesame seed bun. Nothing to see here, folks.
Nevertheless, there is a problem with the White House's story.
If we refer back to the Free Beacon's report, we can see that the author noted that “A spokesman for the agency told the Washington Free Beacon that these kits will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and ‘any illicit substance.'”
The author also noted the spokesman said the objective of distributing the kits was “to reduce the risk of infection when smoking substances with glass pipes, which can lead to infections through cuts and sores,” according to the Free Beacon, which also noted the HHS told the news outlet that it was part of Biden's executive order on “advancing racial equity.”
So who's lying here?
Did the spokesman get it wrong? If so, why didn't Psaki or Lovenheim address it? If someone from HHS made these statements, shouldn't they be addressed?
Of course, there is the possibility that the Free Beacon just made the whole thing up out of whole cloth because it sounded bad. However, this does not seem likely; it would be far easier to debunk if this were the case.
Either way, this case is far from closed. These questions must continue to be asked. The White House should be pushed to give an actual answer explaining why an HHS spokesman would affirm the crack pipe distribution if it was fake news.
But we probably already know the answer, don't we?
It sounds to me like the crack pipes were part of the grant and now they are reversing course after the story went viral. After all, it is not as if this practice wasn't already being carried out at the state and city level. In 2020, New Haven Register reported that the city's police officers would be tasked with passing out “Harm Reduction Kits” similar to what is outlined in the grant's documentation. The author wrote:
The kits, to be offered to those discharged from the New Haven police lockup, are also expected to include information about care options in the city, Brillo pads to use as filters for smoking crack cocaine, sterilizing pads, cotton, condoms and a tourniquet, among other items, officials said Thursday.
Other cities have been considering similar programs. Indeed, the trend appears to have started in Toronto, Canada.
It is possible that the grant was never intended to fund crack pipe distribution. However, the dishonesty this administration has displayed since taking office makes it easy to doubt their word on the matter, especially since an HHS spokesperson already affirmed this was going to happen. Either way, more explanation is needed on this matter. Otherwise, there does not seem to be a reason to believe the White House's denials.