It was touted by the diversity-obsessed media this week that Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House deputy press secretary, made history on Wednesday when she filled in for press secretary Jen Psaki, becoming the first black woman to brief reporters in three decades.
Jean-Pierre, who is also openly gay and married to CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, nevertheless downplayed any significance of the event suggested by some in the media gallery who appeared eager to point it out.
“It’s a real honor just to be standing here today. I appreciate the historic nature, I really do,” Jean-Pierre, a long-time Democratic operative who has briefed press gaggles aboard Air Force One, said in response to a reporter who asked her to describe her emotions.
“But, I believe being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building, is not about one person. It’s about what we do on behalf of the American people,” she added. “Clearly the president believes that representation matters, and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity. This is not about me this is not about any of us.”
The last time a black woman has given a press briefing was in 1991, the Daily Mail reported. Assistant Press Secretary Judy Smith was the first to have given one toward the end of GOP President George H. W. Bush’s term.
Smith took to Twitter to congratulate Jean-Pierre.
“I might have been the first, but so glad I’m not the last! Congrats, @KJP46, on leading the White House briefing room today. So proud of you! #firstandsecond,” Smith wrote.
— Judy Smith (@JudySmith_) May 26, 2021
Earlier this month, Psaki announced she would be leaving her post by year’s end, explaining that she and the Biden administration always knew her job would be temporary.
“This was something I told colleagues and friends, and in my discussions with the amazing people in the Biden orbit, was part of the discussion early on. I’m so honored to serve this president, and at this moment in history to be a small part of rebuilding trust in government,” Psaki told CNN’s Don Lemon.
“But I also have two little kids who are preschoolers, and I know a lot of moms who watch your show who understand that. I don’t want to miss a lot of moments,” she noted further.
“I think at a certain point it’s time to have other people serve in these jobs and roles, and have my– this front seat to history,” she added. “And I’m hopeful that part of what I can do in this job is help– help build that up, and help give people opportunity, and lift up some new voices and faces.”
Having Jean-Pierre fill in for Psaki has led some to speculate that she will be taking her place, the Daily Mail added.
For her part, Psaki gave a shout-out to Jean-Pierre on Twitter.
“Today is a big day in the press office and @WhiteHouse. My partner in truth–@KJP46 is doing her first full briefing from the podium today making history in her own right. But doing her real justice means also recognizing her talent, her brilliance and her wonderful spirit,” she wrote.
Today is a big day in the press office and @WhiteHouse. My partner in truth–@KJP46 is doing her first full briefing from the podium today making history in her own right. But doing her real justice means also recognizing her talent, her brilliance and her wonderful spirit.
— Jen Psaki (@PressSec) May 26, 2021
After Biden won there was a great deal of expectation that he would name Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris, as his first press secretary. When he did not, she was reportedly “hurt” by the decision.
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