Biden Gets Chilly Reception On Short, Belated Visit To East Palestine

Biden Gets Chilly Reception On Short, Belated Visited To East Palestine

President Joe Biden speaks after touring the East Palestine Recovery Site, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, in East Palestine, Ohio. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Via The New York Post:

President Biden was jeered by a large group of protesters Friday during a less than two-hour stop in East Palestine, Ohio more than a year after the disastrous train derailment — as concerns mount over the long-term health and environmental effects on the community.

Dozens of area residents lined a commercial strip to greet Biden, 81, with signs that said “Too Little Too Late,” “Dementia Joe You Gotta Go” and “Go home, Sleepy Joe!”

A pool reporter traveling in the motorcade noted that one angry protester “was giving the middle finger” while several more were “giving the thumbs down.”

At least two people carried pro-Biden signs, the pool reporter said, while others held up signs with pointed demands, such as “Declare the emergency,” “We need healthcare” and “We need aid.”

Biden received a private briefing from officials, delivered a six-minute address and mixed with a select small group of locals at a candle shop before departing for a weekend stay at his Rehoboth Beach, Del., vacation home.

At the candle shop, Biden, seated at a table with a group of nearly a dozen residents including the mayor, took a sip of coffee in view of reporters that officials said was brewed with local tap water in an affirmation of its safety.

A glass of water also was positioned near the president, but a pool report said he did not touch it while the press watched. Reporters were told later by officials that Biden drank it after they were escorted out.

“We’re not leaving until it’s all done.” Biden said at the candle shop, saying the cleanup was “about two-thirds of the way through” but that he too worries about the health effects that may come in “20 years.”

Biden visited the 4,700-person town about an hour west of Pittsburgh after his conspicuous absence attracted a sustained year of criticism, as he visited many other areas of the country following tragedies and disasters.

The president’s election-year visit to East Palestine finally occurred as detractors blasted him for keeping his distance from a community that had little perceptible political value to him.

Biden pinned the blame for the disaster on the Norfolk Southern train company during a brief six-minute statement after he arrived.

“While there are acts of God, this was an act of greed that was 100% preventable,” Biden said, before defending his administration’s response.

“Working with the state, we’ve tested the air, the water, the soil quality, deployed teams and health experts and provided emergency loans to local businesses. But it’s not done yet. There’s more to do,” the president said.

“Today I’m announcing the award of six National Institutes of Health grants to some of America’s best research universities to study the short- and long-term impacts of what happened here. That includes just north of here Case Western University. So you’ll have a top researcher with you as long as you need.”

East Palestine residents have reported various health complaints and expressed anxiety about the long-term effects of the disaster, including potentially increased cancer risks, for their community — though the federal Environmental Protection Agency has insisted they face no risks.

A dark cloud over the town — seen in widely circulated images of the disaster — followed a controlled burn of vinyl chloride, after 100,000 gallons of the carcinogen leaked.

The chemical can generate toxic highly toxic dioxins when burned.

The EPA said four other hazardous chemicals leaked during the derailment, including butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether and isobutylene.

EPA administrator Michael Regan told reporters traveling to East Palestine that local health concerns are overstated and that the air and water are safe.

“I want to be clear that the monitoring that we’ve done of the municipal water, the private wells and the monitoring that we’ve done around the air quality demonstrates that there were no elevated levels of pollution exposure due to this derailment,” Regan said.

“We believe and know based on the science and the data that the air is safe.”

Regan insisted that “90 to 95% of the people of East Palestine are looking forward… and believe that their community is safe.”

Although many protesters in the town supported former President Donald Trump — who were seen carrying his campaign signs — Biden took heat from his political left as well.

“Why didn’t Biden visit East Palestine until over a year since the poisonous corporate disaster that upended their lives?” tweeted Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.

“The corporation responsible is a big campaign donor that gives more to Democrats than Republicans. You can’t work for the people if you’re bought by big money.”