‘Is it ethical?’ Psaki grilled over negotiating for a job with MSNBC while serving as press secretary

White House press secretary Jen Psaki pushed back at ethics questions about a potential new gig at MSNBC, asserting that she has “received rigorous ethics counseling” ahead of such a move.

Psaki would not confirm during a press briefing on Friday that she could soon be exiting her role in the Biden administration to join MSNBC but she did respond to questions about the ethics of negotiating a contract while still on the taxpayers’ dime.

Although there are no confirmed details about a potential deal with the network, Psaki’s imminent departure from the White House was confirmed by Fox News White House Correspondent Jacqui Heinrich who noted that MSNBC won a bidding war against CNN.

Psaki was grilled by reporters – including a future potential colleague – during Friday’s presser about the MSNBC job and about her continued employment by the Biden administration. CBS reporter Ed O’Keefe asked the press secretary on Friday if it was “ethical” for her to continue in the government while also allegedly working on the details of her new gig.

“One little bit of housekeeping. Is it true that you are leaving the White House to work for MSNBC?” he asked.


(Video: CBS News via MRCTV)

“I have nothing to confirm about my length of public service or planned service or anything about consideration about next plans,” Psaki deflected, adding that she was  “very happy to be standing with all of you here today” in light of her recent brush with COVID-19 again.

Psaki asserted that her “focus every day continues to be speaking on behalf of the President, answering your questions,” but O’Keefe pressed for an answer.

“Because this has been raised by our colleagues, but people who are observing this process, is it ethical for you to continue conducting this job while negotiating with a media outlet?” he asked directly.

“Well, I have always gone over and above the stringent ethical and legal requirements of the Biden administration and I take that very seriously,” she replied.

“As a standard for every employee at the White House, I have received rigorous ethics counseling as it relates to any future employment,” she added. “I’ve complied with all ethics requirements and gone beyond and taken steps to reduce myself from decisions as appropriate.”

Psaki told reporters she hoped they would “judge me for my record and how I treat all of you, both in the briefing room and otherwise and I try to answer questions from everybody across the board.”

NBC reporter Kristen Welker jumped in, without mentioning any news outlet by name.

“Jen, given the reports which have now been confirmed by multiple media outlets, how can you continue to be an effective briefer if you do, in fact, have plans to join a media outlet?” she asked.

“Well, I have nothing, again, to announce about any conversations or any future plans. And at whatever time I leave the White House, I can promise you the first thing I am going to do is sleep and spend time with my three and six-year-old, who are my most important audiences of all,” Psaki said, contending that she has taken steps “to make sure there’s no conflicts.”

“I understand what you’re saying, but I guess the question is: How is it ethical to have these conversations with media outlets while you continue to have a job standing behind that podium?” Welker pressed.

Again, Psaki danced around the question, bringing up the administration’s “stringent ethical and legal requirements.”

“Broadly speaking, is it the policy of this White House to allow staffers to have discussions, even if indirectly with institutions, that impact and affect their jobs and your job here,” Welker asked.

Psaki replied that it “is the policy of this White House to ensure that anyone who is having conversations about future employment does so through consultation with the White House counsel’s office and ensuring they abide by any ethics and legal requirements.”

“[T]hose are conversations that I have taken very seriously and abided by every component of,” she added.

Reactions on social media to the news that Psaki may be headed to MSNBC seemed to have a consistent theme.

 

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