The Jen Psaki era as U.S. Press Secretary is now over (Friday, May 13 was her last day), and by the bulk of comments which have come and are coming in about her tenure in the position, she was a very successful spokesperson for the White House.
She had promised to bring back the tradition of daily press briefings with members of the country’s mass media, and that she would try not to blatantly lie to them. She kept that promise for the 15 months Joe Biden has officially been the POTUS.
She came in with a wave of optimism for this new administration and established a new -old style of engaging directly with the reporters while always trying to be an accurate spokesperson for the Biden administration, whether the news was good or bad.
She occupied the press secretary’s podium for over 224 days—a total which alone surpassed all the combined press briefings given by a succession of Trump’s mendacious people (altogether, the four Trump spokespeople—Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and Kayleigh McEnany—presided over no more than 205 press briefings).
And though she got a bit combative at times, by necessity, Psaki succeeded in not lying and obfuscating to the gathered members of the press.
On Monday, May 16, the new spokesperson, a Black, LGBT, child of Haitian immigrants and scrappy news-person, Karine Jean-Pierre, began her tenure on the roost.
She spent 64 minutes at the podium that first day and made her introduction count. She paid homage to the lives and sacrifices of those who’d prepared her way, and she promised not to embarrass them. Hers was not a beginning on the lofty wings of a new administration. Instead, her tenure began with the dark announcement of the 10 fatal victims of the White nationalist-instigated Buffalo grocery store shootings. Jean-Pierre read off each casualty’s name with a brief bio sketch.
Then she was immediately tested. Reporters known to be rough and persistent tried to tie her down on naming and publicly calling out the national news hosts (like FOX TV) and members of Congress who have long been pushing the newest, persistent version of White nationalist propaganda and so-called “replacement theory.”
Shouldn’t the Biden administration condemn those people loudly and unceasingly? And some reporters demanded that Jean-Pierre define her version of replacement theory (which meant the Biden administration’s view). But Jean-Pierre resolutely stuck to whatever plan she had been given. She didn’t take the bait.
In other words, though there were those who wanted her to smite down a few strident reporters and their comments, she passed her first big test. The prime assignment of press secretaries at all times is not to embarrass the administration — and she passed that test. In time, as Jen Psaki had done, she will establish her own off-the-cuff style with the press corps, and not stick to merely reading her notes. And she’ll hold her own in that regard. She’s highly intelligent, well-versed in the Biden administration, and well-practiced. She has spoken to the press many times representing the POTUS, and she has shown no fear at that task.
There have been a few naysayers already who have complained that, well, she’s not Psaki. Well, no, she’s not. She’s Karine Jean-Pierre, and that should and will be enough.
Go on, Black sister. Do your thing.
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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