President Joe Biden on Thursday nominated Karine Jean-Pierre to be the next White House press secretary, the first black woman and openly LGBTQ person to hold the position. Incumbent Jen Psaki is expected to step down next week.
Jean-Pierre takes on the role as the White House faces an uphill battle to help Democrats retain the House and Senate in this fall’s midterm elections, and as the administration struggles to respond. Americans’ concerns about soaring inflation and the state of the economy. She also takes office as Biden faces a daunting array of foreign policy challenges, including the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of North Korea’s nuclear testing program. Biden is expected to visit South Korea and Japan later this month and Europe in June.
Biden is also bringing back longtime Democratic strategist Anita Dunn as a senior adviser. She had served in Biden’s White House last year for several months after Biden was sworn in.
“Karine not only brings the experience, talent, and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating the work of the Biden-Harris administration on behalf of the American people,” Biden said. in a statement praising Jean-Pierre, who has served as his main deputy press secretary since inauguration day.
PSAKI, who leaves the White House on May 13, hailed his successor as a “partner in truth”, stressing the importance of this historic appointment.
“Representation matters and it’s going to give voice to so many people and show so many people what’s truly possible when you work hard and dream big,” Psaki said.
Briefly taking the podium as Psaki briefed the press on Thursday, Jean-Pierre said she “always deals” with the importance of her hiring, calling it “an honor and a privilege to be behind this podium.”
“It’s a historic moment, and I haven’t lost it,” she said. “It’s a very emotional day.”
PSAKI said Biden offered the job to Jean-Pierre Thursday in the Oval Office. White House staffers gathered after the offer and greeted Jean-Pierre with applause, an official said. Two “hot bottles” of champagne were purchased to toast in White House paper cups, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the internal meeting.
Jean-Pierre had occasionally taken the lectern in the press conference room in place of Psaki and had more frequently held off-camera “gaggles” with reporters when Biden traveled on Air Force One. She traveled with Biden to Europe last fall and in March in place of Psaki, who had tested positive for COVID-19 before both trips.
Prior to joining Biden’s presidential campaign, Jean-Pierre was the public affairs director for the progressive group MoveOn.org and a former political analyst for NBC and MSNBC. She also worked in political affairs in the Obama White House and on his re-election campaign.
The press secretary is responsible for organizing daily briefings with the media and leading a department of more than a dozen employees who help answer questions from the press.
When she took the job, Psaki, who has two young children, said publicly that she intended to stay in the job for about a year. She is expected to join MSNBC later this year. She was to remain the public face of the administration until her departure next Friday.
Biden said Psaki “set the standard for the return of decency, respect and decorum to the White House briefing room.”
“I want to thank Jen for raising the bar, for communicating directly and honestly with the American people, and for keeping her sense of humor alive,” Biden said. “I thank Jen for her service to the country and wish her the best as she moves forward.”
Dunn is a partner at Democratic consulting firm SKDK and served as a senior adviser for Biden’s 2020 campaign and previously President Barack Obama’s chief communications strategist and director. The White House said she was returning to “help advance the president’s policy and communications goals.”