White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki delivered a wry putdown on Tuesday as she responded to a New York Times reporter asking about delays to 'furniture, dishwashers and treadmills' amid continuing pressure to explain why the president had not acted faster on supply chain problems.
'The tragedy of the treadmill that's delayed,' she responded.
Yet the backlash came fast, from commentators who would normally have enjoyed watching the New York Times' worldview being put deftly in its place.
'Stores are running out of food, medical supplies, supply driving inflation but Psaki reduces real world problems down to the example of a treadmill for a chuckle,' tweeted talk show host Dana Loesch.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki: 'The tragedy of the treadmill that's delayed.' Psaki scoffed at a question about supply chains holding up treadmills as she was pressed on why the president did not act sooner to fix snarled supply chains
A record number of ships are lined up waiting to dock at the port of Los Angeles while stores wonder whether they will be full for the holiday season
Empty shelves at an IKEA store on October 15, 2021 in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York City. IKEA executives have warned that disruption could last into next year
Conservatives seized on the line, accusing the White House of misunderstanding the difficulties being faced by ordinary Americans
Schools in Denver are reportedly running out of milk. And stores across the country have reported shortages of canned goods as customers hoard supplies.
More than 150 ships are waiting to enter the port of Los Angeles.
And parents are being told to buy Christmas toys now to beat bottlenecks in the production and delivery process.
In recent days the Biden administration has unveiled efforts to expand overnight operations at big retailers and to turn Los Angeles into a 24-hour port to beat the crunch.
And on Tuesday it emerged that the White House had considered sending in the National Guard to help.
Source told the Washington Post that armed forces were unlikely to be used but that it reflected how all options were being considered.
Treadmills might not be at the top of anyone's agenda but Michael Shear, of the New York Times, plowed on after the public rebuke to ask why the president had not acted sooner.
'Essentially the president waited until now right before the holiday season, to take this series of actions,' he said.
'Why didn't the president act sooner and is that a reflection of the fact that his administration has failed to kind of anticipate, and is much more reactive to these kinds of things, rather than getting ahead of them as they should.'
Psaki said it was wrong to say the president waited too long.
'The president formed of task force at the very beginning of the administration and what we know from the global supply chain issues is that they are multifaceted,' she said.
'Right now we've been focusing on the ports and issues at the ports, and then what leaders at these ports will tell you is that they've seen an increase in volume dramatically as it relates to last year, a year ago 20% 30% increase in volume, but there are other issues that have impacted the global supply chain that we've been working to address our task force from the beginning.'
With the impact of COVID closures receding, she said, supply chains were struggling to cope with the scale of demand.
'I think the important thing to understand here is that there are multiple issues that are impacting the supply chain, and some of that is that as the economy has turned back on,' she said.
'More people had expendable income wages to buy more goods, more people are buying more goods.
'People have started to also buy more things online and going into stores, and so that is also impacting the volume.'