President Obama was “very disturbed” to learn that the Defense Department would not pay death benefits to the families of fallen soldiers, a White House spokesman said Wednesday. But if the Defense Department knew this several weeks ago, why didn’t the president? When did President Obama learn about the problem?

White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked that question at least six times on Wednesday, but he wouldn’t or couldn’t say.

The most persistent questioner was Fox News’s Ed Henry:

“Jay, when did the president learn specifically that the military death benefits would not be paid?,” Henry asked Carney.

“Ed, I don’t know specifically. I can tell you that when he learned that these benefits were not explicitly dealt with in the Pay our Military Act, he was very disturbed, and he asked for the OMB and his lawyers to take action.”

“So why didn’t he have that action taken before today, though?” Henry asked.

“You have to work out a process,” Carney said. “Unless you’re willing to write the check, Ed — I mean, you know, we — it takes some time — it takes some time to —

Henry tried again: “Why won’t you tell us what day he learned? Was it yesterday, the day before?

“Ed, what I can tell you is when the president…when the president found out, he was disturbed, and he asked his lawyers and the OMB to get to work on a solution, and we expect a solution today…” Carney then blamed Republicans for shutting down the government in the first place.

“But you won’t tell simple fact of when the president learned,” Henry said. “You’re trying to say —

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