Jen Psaki’s ‘Sheriff Joe’ Remarks Leave Internet Confused

Social media users reacted with confusion and some criticism on Monday after White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki referred to President Joe Biden as “Sheriff Joe” at a briefing.

Psaki was discussing the newly passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. The bill’s implementation will be overseen by former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Biden filled a similar role when he served as vice president under then President Barack Obama and recalled on November 12 that some people had called him ‘Sheriff Biden’ at the time.

The president issued an executive order establishing a taskforce to implement the infrastructure bill and Psaki referred to it on Monday.

“And as our executive order is an indication of, the President is very focused – they call him ‘Sheriff Joe’ for a reason – on the implementation of this, making sure we keep waste, fraud, and abuse – we prevent waste, fraud, and abuse, and that we are working directly for hours a day, which is what Mitch Landrieu will be doing, with governors, local officials, and others,” Psaki said.

The nickname caused some confusion online and led to jokes, with users comparing Biden to former Maricopa county Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona, a controversial figure who is well-known among conservatives.

Briahna Joy Gray, former national press secretary for Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2020 campaign, retweeted a screenshot of an article about Biden saying he would forgive student debt for families earning less than $125,000.

Gray wrote: “I’ve never heard anyone call him “Sheriff Joe,” but I have heard Lyin’ Biden.”

The Biden administration has made efforts to cancel student debt, with $2 billion due to be forgiven in the coming weeks.

“Nobody calls him sheriff Joe. We never have. Only Sheriff Joe is Arpaio…. The only one referred to as such,” tweeted broadcaster Mark Bland.

ABC15’s Zack Crenshaw seemed to agree. He tweeted: “When Arizonans hear ‘Sheriff Joe’ they aren’t thinking Biden…”

Former Hillary Clinton adviser Peter Daou tweeted the phrase “Sheriff Joe” and a photo of a Border Patrol agent on a horse using long reins. Footage and images of border agents on horseback caused significant controversy this year.

Many Twitter users didn’t seem impressed with the nickname, with journalist Drake Bentley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writing: “Ok which one of y’all calling this man Sheriff Joe?”

However, former President Barack Obama did refer to Biden as “Sheriff Joe”, as The Independent‘s senior Washington correspondent Eric Michael Garcia pointed out.

“People are joking on Twitter about Biden being called ‘Sheriff Joe’ but Obama DID indeed call him Sheriff Joe. He also said nobody messes with Joe,” Garcia wrote, sharing an ABC News story from 2009 that reported Biden was “deemed ‘Sheriff Joe’ by the president.”

Biden was charged with overseeing $787 billion in stimulus spending and his approach to the task earned him the nickname. The president has often made reference to the fact, including at a cabinet meeting on November 12.

“The President started calling me ‘Sheriff Joe,’ but – from President Obama at the time,” he said.

“Because I made it a point, every day, to stay on top of how exactly the money was spent, what projects were being built, what projects were not being built, and how it was functioning. And it was one of the most efficient implementations of a major program in modern American history,” Biden explained.

Biden also said on November 12 that the Obama stimulus spending “had less than two tenths of 1 percent waste or fraud” or less than 0.2 percent.

Biden Speaks at the Tribal Nations Summit
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the 2021 Tribal Nations Summit at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on November 15, 2021, in Washington, DC. Biden’s nickname “Sheriff Joe” has caused confusion online.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

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