(CBrief) – White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre raised some eyebrows on Thursday when she delivered remarks about WNBA star Brittney Griner. Griner, who was held for months in Russian prisons on drug charges, was released Thursday in a prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout.

“President Biden keeps his promises, and today he fulfilled a deeply important promise to bring Brittney Griner home to a family that loves her, a team that misses her, and a country that has marveled at her strength and courage. Brittney’s safe return home is the product of months and months of painstaking negotiations that were the culmination of extraordinary efforts across the U.S. government. Officials from the White House, the State Department, and across the administration worked tirelessly and relentlessly to see this moment through. As the secretary of state said publicly in July, we have been engaging in intense negotiations with Russia, pursuing many different avenues over the course of last six months to secure Brittney’s release. And we know Brittney fought tirelessly too,” Jean-Pierre said.

“Throughout her ordeal we saw Brittney, a two time Olympic gold medalist for team U.S.A. demonstrates strength, courage and dignity. As the President said this morning, she represents the best of America. I had the opportunity to speak to Cherelle Griner a couple of hours ago, who was looking forward to seeing Brittney as soon as she returned home later today,” she added.

“Cherelle, who herself has handled Britney’s detention with incredible strength, asked me to communicate once again, her sincere gratitude to everyone in the administration, and in their broader — in — in their own broader support network, who made this day possible. She also wanted to reinforce the commitment she and Brittney have made to stand up and speak out for other Americans wrongfully detained abroad. While we’re celebrating Brittney’s return home today, we have also continued to be in touch with the Whelan family for whom this news brings mixed emotions. In recent weeks, it became clear that while Russians were willing to reach an agreement to secure Brittney’s release, they continue to treat Paul Whelan differently given the nature of the total — totally illegitimate charges they have levied against Paul. Unfortunately, the choice became to either bring Brittney home or no one,” the press secretary continued.


After her statements, KJP was grilled by Fox News reporter Peter Doocy about the trade.

“They gave up a professional athlete. We gave up a prolific arms dealer who was convicted of trying to kill Americans, who is called the ‘Merchant of Death,’” Doocy asked.