President Joe Biden announced on Thursday that White House press secretary Jen Psaki is leaving the administration on May 13, to be replaced by her deputy, Karine Jean-Pierre.
“Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people. Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration,” he said in a statement released by the White House.
“Jen Psaki has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House Briefing Room. I want to say thank you to Jen for raising the bar, communicating directly and truthfully to the American people, and keeping her sense of humor while doing so. I thank Jen her service to the country, and wish her the very best as she moves forward.”
Jean-Pierre represents a historic choice for the role, the first Black press secretary and openly gay one in the history of the position. She has been viewed for months as Psaki’s likely successor, having served as the press secretary’s number two for the first year of the administration.
Biden made the decision to appoint her on Thursday afternoon, calling her into the Oval around 2:30 p.m. The two had a conversation where he offered her the post and she accepted it, a person familiar with the matter said. Later in the afternoon Psaki and Jean-Pierre called a press team meeting in the press secretary’s office and told the rest of the team, after which staffers grabbed two bottles of warm champagne and styrofoam White House cups and toasted them.
Jean-Pierre has tough shoes to fill. Psaki has widely been seen by members of the White House press corps as a cool-headed spokesperson with a knack for explaining complicated policy issues. She entered the job intent on restoring White House credibility with the press corps, following years of hostile battles with the media under the Trump administration. She also brought back daily White House press briefings that had all but disappeared in the second half of the former administration.
Psaki’s departure from the White House has been expected for months. In May 2021, she signaled her plans on the CNN podcast “The Axe Files,” during an interview with former Obama administration official David Axelrod.
“I think it’s going to be time for somebody else to have this job, in a year from now or about a year from now,” she said at the time.
Psaki was convinced by members of the president’s team to stay on amid a series of overlapping crises, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.
But some of her attention seemed to wane, and faced questions about her decision to engage in negotiations with MSNBC while still occupying a White House job, which Psaki defended by saying she was engaged with the White House counsel’s office to ensure that she did not break any ethical rules.
Psaki’s departure is the latest departure from the White House communications office to head for broadcast or cable networks. Symone Sanders, who served as press secretary for Vice President Kamala Harris, is launching her own new show on MSNBC this weekend. Fox News served the previous administration as both a farm team for the press office and a landing place for former officials. Kayleigh McEnany is a host on Fox News’ daily roundtable show Outnumbered.
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