WASHINGTON — President Biden on Thursday selected Karine Jean-Pierre, the senior deputy press secretary, to replace Jen Psaki as the White House’s top spokesperson, making her the first black woman to hold one of the top positions in American politics.
Ms. Jean-Pierre, who worked on Mr. Biden’s campaign and had a long career in Democratic communications, will become the president’s second White House press secretary. In her new role, she will have the high-pressure task of providing daily briefings from the desk in the briefing room.
In a statement, Mr. Biden said that Ms. Jean-Pierre “not only brings the experience, the talent and the integrity necessary to this difficult work, but she will continue to lead the way by communicating on the work of the administration. Biden-Harris on behalf of the American people.”
He predicted she would be “a strong speaking voice for me and this administration”.
Ms Psaki’s last day as press officer will be May 13. She is expected to take on an on-air role with MSNBC.
“I’m going to cry,” Ms. Psaki said Thursday before turning to the row of seats where Ms. Jean-Pierre usually observes the press briefing and motions for her to come to the desk.
After noting that her successor will be the first black and openly gay woman to hold the position of press officer, Ms Psaki said Ms Jean-Pierre will “give so many people a voice”.
Ms. Jean-Pierre, 44, will be challenged to get the administration’s message across ahead of the midterm elections which are expected to pose a daunting challenge for Democrats. Mr. Biden’s team has acknowledged that administration officials have struggled to cross the country and speak to the public during the pandemic, and the president himself has said he should travel more and speak to people. voters of his priorities.
Mr. Biden has recently added other communications veterans to his team. Ian Sams, who had served as spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, joined the White House staff as spokesman for the council’s office. And Anita Dunn, one of Biden’s top advisers during his campaign and early in his presidency, will leave political advisory firm SKDK and join the administration as a senior adviser to Mr. Biden.
Ms. Jean-Pierre took the desk in the White House briefing room a few times; Last May, she became the first black woman in decades to address reporters on behalf of the president in the briefing room. Her most frequent formal interactions with the news media were aboard Air Force One, where she often gave press briefings during Mr. Biden’s trips.
But the sense of the ongoing story was not lost on members of the White House press team or reporters attending a news conference Thursday that showed both the performance celebrations and the polarizing issues that divide the country. The briefing swung between emotional tributes, a display of seized Russian yachts, inspirational messages and shouted questions about Mr Biden’s stance on abortion.
Asked about the historical nature of her promotion, Ms. Jean-Pierre replied: “It did not escape me.
“I understand how important this is for so many people, so many different communities,” she said. “That I stand on their shoulders, and I have been throughout my career.”
Ms. Jean-Pierre said she thought it was important for young black children to see someone who looked like them behind the presidential desk.
“Follow your passion, follow what you believe in, and keep that focus,” she said.
Mr. Biden called Ms. Jean-Pierre in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon to formally offer her the job, according to a White House official. The press team celebrated by drinking hot champagne from polystyrene cups bearing the presidential seal, the official said.
Before leaving the desk, Ms. Jean-Pierre was asked if she had ever doubted that she would be able to take on the position of press officer as a black woman.
“No, not at all,” she said. “I just worked hard for it. But I understand how difficult it is. I do it.”