The epidemic of creepy clown reports that’s been sweeping the nation was addressed during the White House press briefing on Tuesday — and it seems President Barack Obama isn’t quite clued in on the “situation.”
Asked by a reporter if Obama was aware of the uptick in clown sightings (many of which have turned out to be apparently panic-fueled copycat reports, with no evidence to support them) press secretary Josh Earnest said, “I don’t know that the president has been briefed on this particular situation.”
“This is something that I’ve read about in some of the news coverage,” Earnest said.
“Obviously, this is a situation that local law enforcement authorities take quite seriously, and they should carefully and thoroughly review perceived threats to the safety of the community, and they should do so prudently,” he said.
Reports of clowns sightings across the country began in waves in late August but police have more recently cracked down, arresting people in Georgia and North Carolina for allegedly falsely claiming to encounter the costumed creeps.
In other cases in different cities — including Greensboro, North Carolina, Greenville, South Carolina, and others — police told PEOPLE that they’ve been unable to locate the individuals or evidence of a crime. (In rare instances, police have also arrested alleged clowns, though such arrests are dwarfed by the number of “sightings.”)
“The fact is, to date, there are no confirmed reports of any clowns actually abducting, harming, killing [or] molesting kids,” Benjamin Radford, a folklorist and author, previously told PEOPLE. “There just aren’t. There are zero.”
Radford, an expert on so-called “clown panics,” says the phenomena is ripe for social media and spreads easily, but should die down soon.
Earnest said Tuesday he couldn’t “speak to any advice [local law enforcement authorities] may have received from law enforcement experts at the federal level.”
Of the false reports and clown sightings, Greensboro police spokeswoman Susan Danielsen previously told PEOPLE, “If this is a hoax or publicity stunt it is not funny. It is alarming to the public and a drain on police resources.”