On Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was at a loss for words when she heard that Queen Elizabeth II had died at the age of 96.
Jean-Pierre had been answering a question on the Inflation Reduction Act when reporters in the briefing room broke the news to her.
“OK, all right, well, um,” the press secretary began before pausing for several seconds, before finally asking the press corps, “OK, so that’s been confirmed?”
When told the news had been announced by the royal family, Jean-Pierre continued: “So, as I said earlier, our hearts and our thoughts go to the family members of the Queen, goes to the people of the United Kingdom.”
“I don’t want to get ahead of what the president is going to say. I want him to — for you all to hear from him first. And so I don’t want to get ahead of that,” she added.
“But, and I said this earlier, our relationship with the people of the United Kingdom — and this is something that the president has said himself — has grown stronger and stronger, and it is one of our — the United Kingdom is one of our closest allies, and again, our hearts go to the people of the United Kingdom and to the Queen and to her family,” Jean-Pierre concluded.
The White House’s planned remarks by President Biden on updated COVID-19 vaccines were canceled, and instead the administration issued a lengthy statement from the president and first lady.
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch. She defined an era,” the statement said.
“In a world of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her,” the statement added. “An enduring admiration for Queen Elizabeth II united people across the Commonwealth. The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement and the forward march of human dignity.
“She was the first British monarch to whom people all around the world could feel a personal and immediate connection—whether they heard her on the radio as a young princess speaking to the children of the United Kingdom, or gathered around their televisions for her coronation, or watched her final Christmas speech or her Platinum Jubilee on their phones. And she, in turn, dedicated her whole life to their service,” it continued.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) paid tribute to the late monarch on the floor of the chamber Thursday afternoon.
“Every step of the way, she was precisely the kind of leader the moment demanded. In times of hardship, she was both strong and comforting; in times of joy, she was gracious and dignified,” Schumer said.
“She was a rock, the living embodiment of the virtues that lie at the core of the nation she so proudly led. I dare say we will never see a leader quite like her for as long as we live.”
“The British people’s loss is the entire world’s loss,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in a statement.
“The decades of Her Majesty’s reign saw an intense deepening of the special relationship and close bond between the United States and the United Kingdom,” McConnell added.
“The Queen who met sitting President Harry S. Truman as a 25-year-old princess and met a dozen more of our Presidents during her reign presided over an historic strengthening of our nations’ alliance that has changed the course of world history for the better.”
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