Tuesday morning, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken appeared before the Senate to testify about the Afghanistan withdrawal, but Sen. James Risch (R-ID) kept asking the same question repeatedly about a conspiracy theory the secretary had never heard of.
"I'm more interested in the top decision making," Risch began. "Look, we've all seen this and saw it as recently as yesterday, somebody in the White House has the authority to press the button and cut off the president's speaking ability and sound. Who is that person?"
"I think anybody who knows the president, including members of this committee, knows that he speaks very clearly and very deliberately for himself. Nobody else does," said Blinken.
"Are you saying that there's nobody in the White House that can cut him off, because yesterday it happened and it has happened before that, and it has been widely reported that suddenly somebody has the power to push a button and cut off his sound. Who is that person?" Risch asked again.
"There is no such person. Again, the president speaks for himself and makes all the strategic decisions and is informed by the best advice he can get from around him," replied Blinken.
"Are you unaware this is actually happening? It happened yesterday at the interagency fire center. It was widely reported and the media is reporting on it and it's not the first time it has happened, it has happened several times, and are you telling this committee that this does not happen and there's nobody in the White House and pushes a button and cuts him off mid-sentence?" Risch asked again.
Blinken said simply, "correct."
"Are you saying that didn't happen?" Risch asked.
"Senator, I really don't know what you are referring to. All I can tell you is having worked with the president for now 20 years, both here on this committee and in over the last nine months at the White House, the president very much speaks for himself," Blinken said.
Risch tried another way of asking the same question, saying, "let's take a different attack. He does speak for himself, but what happens when somebody doesn't want him speaking? You are telling us you don't know anything about this, somebody cuts him off in mid-sentence, is that what you are trying to tell this committee? Because everybody here has seen it."
"Senator, I am telling you, based on my own experience with the president over the last 20 years, anybody who tried to stop him from saying what he wanted to say, speaking his mind, would probably not be long for their job," Blinken said.
The "widely reported" story that Risch was referencing was a conspiracy theory that President Joe Biden has been intentionally "cut off" by staff as he takes questions from reporters, a story reported by conservative-leaning sites like Fox News, The New York Post, and The Sun.
According to CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale, on Monday "there was a planned 'pool spray,' in which press… is allowed in for brief remarks at a meeting's start; it ended as Biden began questioning officials."
"Prompted by a Republican National Committee tweet, right-wing media covered this like the White House was nervously censoring Biden as he went off script," Dale added. "These are the words Biden said before the feed ended:'Can I ask you a question? One of the things that I've been working on, with some others, is...' It wasn't like he started telling some crazy story."
See the exchange between Risch and Blinken below: