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White House says Biden 'not casting doubt' on 2022 midterms after saying elections could be 'illegitimate'

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WASHINGTON – The White House on Thursday said President Joe Biden was "not casting doubt" on U.S. elections after he said the 2022 midterms could be "illegitimate," prompting fears Biden, like his predecessor, was seeking to undermine future votes.

Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized Biden’s remarks, which have also been compared to former President Donald Trump, who tried overturn the 2020 election results with a series of baseless, false claims and lawsuits alleging fraud.

Officials “need to be very careful about how we talk about elections," David Becker, executive director and founder of Center for Election Innovation and Research, said of the president’s comments during a call with reporters.

He added that he believes Biden has a “great deal of respect for elections whether or not his party wins or loses” and doesn’t expect him to “do anything like the former president has been doing.”

“We need to make sure that the will of voters hold sway and even if the rules in certain states are rules that we do not like, those are the rules that apply,” he said.

During a wide-ranging, nearly two-hour press conference Wednesday, Biden said the 2022 midterm elections could “easily be illegitimate” if Congress does not pass voting rights legislation.

"The increase in the prospect of being illegitimate is in proportion to not being able to get these reforms passed,” the president said.

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a tweet said the president “was not casting doubt on the legitimacy of the 2022 election.” Instead, Psaki said Biden was saying elections would only be illegitimate “if states do what the former president asked them to do after the 2020 election: toss out ballots and overturn results after the fact.”

“The Big Lie is putting our democracy at risk,” Psaki said in a series of tweets. “We’re fighting to protect it.”

More: Biden just threw out his bipartisan playbook. Will blaming Republicans help him reset his presidency?

More: Senate Democrats fail to advance voting rights legislation and changes to filibuster

Biden’s comments came hours before Democrats failed to advance a voting rights bill that would have pushed back on several GOP-sponsored state laws that civil rights advocates say would suppress turnout by minority voters.

During the press conference Wednesday, Biden said he and the Democratic Party will not “give up on” trying to pass voting rights legislation.

Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: White House says Biden 'not casting doubt' on 2022 midterm elections