Two months ago, Karine Jean-Pierre took to the White House Press Secretary podium for the first time. Coming in to replace Jen Psaki in arguably one of the most difficult positions within the White House, some of the reporters she regularly interacts with have given their honest impressions of the newest press secretary.
If we’re being honest, they’re not exactly pretty.
Psaki received cable news offers and widespread praise from much of the mainstream media, who viewed her as intelligent, capable and a formidable foe for the Biden administration’s critics. One White house scribe even anonymously confessed their fear of attempting to combat Psaki out of fear of looking like an “a–hole”
The same cannot be said for her replacement after Psaki abruptly left the position in May. When President Biden announced that Jean-Pierre would be replacing Psaki, he wrote, “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.”
But two months in, Jean-Pierre’s appointment looks about as good as the rest of the administration. And while many White House reporters aren’t willing to bash other parts of the admin, Jean-Pierre is a notable exception.
One of the largest complaints is her tendency to stick to the binder and deliver talking points rather than engage with the press.
“If your M.O. is going to be reading prepared answers, you should have a lot of prepared answers so that you’re not just deferring to reporters constantly,” said one current White House reporter.
“She is poorly received as she isn’t taking time to answer questions or banter with reporters on the issues of the day,” said another. “A press secretary has to share some information, kind of a give and take, but she just doesn’t appear willing to do that yet… Too often, she is telling reporters that she ‘has nothing from the podium’ to say, which is a waste of everyone’s time.”
Jean-Pierre has also taken more than a little flak for being uninformed about information that should be known, arguably one of the worst crimes a press secretary can commit. She has, on multiple occasions, confessed lack of knowledge on large and prominent news stories such as when, on June 1, she was unaware of President Biden’s close contact with COVID-positive Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
“They were together on Memorial Day,” a Daily Mail reporter said on the topic.
“Oh, were they?” she said. “OK.”
“There are pictures of them,” the reporter continued.
“OK, great. Well, thank you for that reminder,” Jean-Pierre replied.
Later that month she refused to give information about the testing schedule of President Biden. Last week she claimed that America had never been stronger economically, despite inflation reaching 9.1%. She has refused to comment on anything related to the materials found on Hunter Biden’s laptop, including a voicemail from the president relating to his son’s business dealings.
Unfortunately, for Jean-Pierre, the Biden administration and the left as a whole, simply treating a problem like it doesn’t exist, doesn’t make it go away.
The repeated complaint from White House reporters has been that while there are public weekday briefings under Jean-Pierre much like there were under Psaki, there’s little to no information actually obtained that isn’t already known.
“The obvious frustration is that Karine is by the book, literally by the book,” the first White House reporter said. “And that means that unless your question has some pre-prepared response in that book, you’re probably not going to get anything new out of her. I’m not sure if that’s a deliberate strategy by this administration to focus the conversation or limit it, but unless she is prepared and has a prepared response, you’re not going to get much out of her. At this point, on some of the more hot button topics, I mean, we’re always parsing answers, but now we’re parsing non-answers as well.”
The reporter said that she could stand to make herself more aware of the White House’s considerable resources.
“I don’t want to give anyone advice, but I think that if she wasn’t prepared to do a give-and-take on any of these issues, you know, there’s a way for her to speed up and learn about all of these issues so that she can, you know, mix it up with reporters. I’m not certain if that’s something that the White House wants right now, though, because remember, Jen Psaki’s parting advice to Karine was ‘don’t worry too much about winning the argument in the room,'” they said.
The frustrations behind Jean-Pierre are more than slight, but it’s not over for her tenure. Lately, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has become something of a co-press secretary. Between June 21 and 25, he appeared three times alongside Jean-Pierre. You could argue that she’s being undercut more than a little.
“It’s almost as if he’s the second press secretary, he shows up all the time, takes questions that she should answer, and steals the shine and the show from her. It’s a strange situation,” said Today News Africa Correspondent Simon Ateba.
“Kirby is not a babysitter, he is a co-press secretary, taking serious foreign affairs off of Jean-Pierre’s portfolio,” the second White House reporter said. “Biden likes to see Kirby taking the questions on serious national security issues.”