The Biden administration has been made to backpedal on its plan to distribute so-called “safe smoking kits” to drug addicts, asserting the kits do not contain crack pipes after conservative media started a row about it.
The turmoil started after outlets such as the Washington Free Beacon picked up on information provided by a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) saying there was a $30 million federal grant program on its way to supply drug paraphernalia and healthcare products to severe drug addicts via local agencies and nonprofits.
“Biden Admin To Fund Crack Pipe Distribution To Advance ‘Racial Equity’” the outlet headlined on its Feb. 7 issue.
The news media claimed it based its information on info from an HHS insider who asserted the smoke kits contained pipes to enable drug users to smoke crack, crystal meth, or any other “illicit substance.”
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The “racial equity” claim was based on the fact that those grant applicants who represented underserved groups like the LGBTQ+ community or blacks would be favored which would be in line with the White House’s “racial equity” guidelines, the outlet argued.
‘This is what he thinks of our community’
The news article drew much attention among conservative lawmakers and political commentators’ who decried the plan to spend taxpayers’ money on funding crack pipes to promote racial equity.
Many took to social media to vent their outrage.
“Last week, Biden talked about being tough on crime,” Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted. This week, the Biden Admin announced funds for crack pipe distribution to “advance racial equity.”
“The Biden Administration is going to spend $30 million taxpayer dollars on free crack pipes and drug use kits for minority demographic drug addicts, in an effort to support Biden’s executive order on ‘advancing racial equity,’” Natalie Argyle of Chicks on the Right reported, while adding: “I wish I were joking. I really do. But I just couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.”
The project also received little appraisal from the black community. “Joe Biden is handing out crack pipes to help ‘racial equity’… during Black History Month,” wrote Errol Webber, a black Republican candidate for California’s 47th Congressional District. “No I’m not joking. No I’m not lying,” Webber added. “This is what he thinks of our community.”
Backpedaling on the crack pipes
However, White House officials rushed to assure that there were no crack pipes being funded, and that there never would be.
“No federal funding will be used directly or through subsequent reimbursement of grantees to put pipes in safe smoking kits,” Xavier Becerra, HHS Secretary and Rahul Gupta, White House drug policy adviser said in a joint statement on Feb. 9.
“They were never a part of the kit,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “It was inaccurate reporting and we wanted to put out information to make that clear,” she added.
The crux of the argument was contained in the term “safe smoking supplies” the HHS used in its 9 Feb. issue
Pro-Biden fact-checker outlet Snopes also played its part in the damage control, glossing over the ‘safe smoking kit” issue, stating:
“It’s true that the grant description required the provision of harm reduction supplies, and listed ‘safe smoking kits’ as an example — an established component of harm reduction strategy,” Snopes said. “But in reality, those kits constituted just one of several sub-components of an even longer list of requirements for grant recipients.”
“This newly-stipulated detail was not originally available, meaning the assertions made in a first wave of coverage had become outdated,” the magazine added, referring to the HHS joint statement that specifically pointed out that no crack pipes would be included in the smoking kits.
“This is a hilarious fact check that labels the reporting FALSE but then describes it as entirely true but “not important,” former NY Times reporter Nellie Bowles commented on Twitter.
“Note how carefully worded this statement is,” editor and chief writer of Washington Post’s Fact Checker remarked. “Unlike WH comment, there is no suggestion that the original reporting on crack pipes was wrong. The use of the word ‘Accordingly’ suggests a change in policy without directly saying so.”