Jen Psaki says goodbye after a year, passes torch to Karine Jean-Pierre
After just over a year, White House press secretary Jen Psaki gave an emotional goodbye on her last day. Karine Jean-Pierre will succeed her.
Ariana Triggs, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday stood behind the podium one final time before saying goodbye to her post, one of the first senior officials to leave the Biden administration.
In a teary-eyed goodbye, Psaki thanked her staff, the press and President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, and recalled that when she joined the White House, Biden highlighted “the importance of returning integrity, respect and civility to the White House.”
“That doesn’t not mean that we haven’t let our Irish side show, mine and the President’s as well from time to time,” Psaki said. “I recognize that. But on my best days and as I look back, I hope I followed the example of integrity and grace that (the Bidens) have set for all of us.”
Psaki held her final press briefing Friday, ending her reign as the most prominent face of the Biden administration since day one. She is leaving as President Joe Biden faces low approval ratings amid rising inflation and ahead of a tough midterm election where Democrats will face major headwinds to retain power in Congress.
Karine Jean-Pierre, who was the White House’s principal deputy press secretary, will now serve as press secretary. Jean-Pierre is the first Black woman and also first openly LGBTQ person to hold the high-profile position.
During her final press briefing, Psaki took roughly 54 questions from 19 reporters, according to a pool report.
Jean-Pierre said Friday that she would continue daily press briefings.
When asked what advice she has for Jean-Pierre, Psaki gave three points of advice to her successor. Psaki said she should use every opportunity to speak with Biden as the main point of their job is to “project, convey the positions, the policy, the views of the president of the United States.”
“Every opportunity you have to speak with him, to engage with him, to ask him questions — oftentimes, I will tell you, they are questions that you will need in the briefing room or otherwise — it will make you better equipped and even more effective because our job is to speak on his behalf,” Psaki said.
Psaki added that Jean-Pierre should “spend time digging, pushing and questioning the policy teams.” She also warned that press briefings could get a little repetitive.
“Karine, as I said last week, is going to bring her own magic, her brilliance, her style, to this briefing room,” Psaki said.
Psaki has reportedly been in talks to join MSNBC. She is in line to host a show for MSNBC on NBC Universal’s streaming platform, Peacock, according to Axios. She would also be a contributor to live programming on various MSNBC shows.
During her tenure, Psaki gained a cult following online for her pointed exchanges with reporters and sharp delivery, with some using the term “Psakied.”
Despite her following, Psaki said that she’s received threats against her and her family.
“I’ve had threats, I have had nasty letters, texts to me with my personal address, the names of my children,” Psaki told a group of reporters Thursday at a breakfast meeting sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor.
“It crosses lines, and you know, that’s when it becomes a little scary,” she said.
Biden last week praised Psaki in a statement and thanked her for “raising the bar, communicating directly and truthfully to the American people, and keeping her sense of humor while doing so.”
“Jen Psaki has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House Briefing Room,” Biden said.
Although Psaki acknowledged that she at times sparred with the press, she said that it was “democracy in action.”
“You have challenged me. You have pushed me. You have debated me, and at times we have disagreed,” Psaki said of the press. “That is democracy in action. That is it working. Without accountability, without debate, government is not as strong.”
After her final question, Psaki gathered her binder from the podium and waved goodbye to the press.
Contributing: Joey Garrison and Michael Collins
Reach Rebecca Morin at Twitter @RebeccaMorin_