If White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki thought journalists over at NBC News were going to roll out the welcome wagon for her following reports of MSNBC’s intention to hire her once she steps down from the Biden administration, she’s in for a disappointment.
The journalists at NBC are “vexed,” people familiar with the matter told CNN — so much so that NBC News President Noah Oppenheim was forced to hold an impromptu phone call Friday to address the concerns of his Washington bureau staff, some of whom have gone to their superiors with fears that Psaki’s “tentative hiring tarnishes the NBC News brand.”
Speaking with angry journalists, Oppenheim distinguished between NBC News and MSNBC’s opinion programming and stated that NBC News, which he oversees, had no role in the offer to bring Psaki on board. He stressed that MSNBC’s opinion arm is separate from NBC News, and the hires they make are unrelated to the work that NBC News does.
“Here’s what he was saying: They have perspective programming,” said one person who was on the call. “This was done on the perspective programming side. Not anything that reflects on NBC News.”
“People wanted answers on what NBC’s role was in this and NBC News had no role in this,” the person stressed. “This is MSNBC’s perspective programming.”
Though politicians and government officials often sign lucrative deals with news organizations once they leave office, negotiations for Psaki’s future came while she is still fulfilling her duties as Press Secretary, and that, for some staffers, is an issue.
As previously reported in American Wire News, CNN apparently lost a bidding war with MSNBC to nab Psaki in early April.
At the time, CBS reporter Ed O’Keefe grilled Psaki over the tentative deal, asking her if it was “ethical” for her to be pounding out the details of her new gig while continuing to work for the Biden administration.
Unsurprisingly, Psaki assured members of the media that it was.
“Well, I have always gone over and above the stringent ethical and legal requirements of the Biden administration and I take that very seriously,” Psaki said. “As a standard for every employee at the White House, I have received rigorous ethics counseling as it relates to any future employment. I’ve complied with all ethics requirements and gone beyond and taken steps to recuse myself from decisions as appropriate.”
But it may be more than ethical questions that are eating at NBC News journalists. A green-eyed monster or two may be nibbling at Psaki’s high heels.
Rather than receive a typical “political analyst” post-White House role — one which would have her as a frequent guest on other people’s shows — MSNBC plans on giving Psaki her own show that will stream on its Peacock platform.
According to those on the call, Oppenheim wants his journalists to ignore all the noise around Psaki’s hiring and to do their jobs as they normally would.
NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Kristen Welker took Oppenheim’s advice to heart.
Later that day, she picked up where CBS’s Ed O’Keefe left off in April and hammered Psaki on the ethics of planning for a hosting job while still serving as press secretary.
NBC's Kristen Welker to future officemate Psaki: "I understand what you're saying but…how is it ethical to have these conversations…while you continue to have a job[?]"
Psaki says she's "abided by" and "go[ne] beyond" all "ethical and legal requirements" at the WH. pic.twitter.com/9JWM3SQQpf
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) April 1, 2022
“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?” Welker asked.
“Well, I have nothing, again, to announce about any conversations or any future plans,” Psaki replied. “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-olds, who are my most important audiences of all. But I would say, Kristen, again, I have taken the ethics, the legal requirements, to the highest — very seriously, and any discussions and any considerations about any future employment, just as any White House official would, and I’ve taken steps beyond that to ensure that there is no conflict.”
Welker stated she understood what Psaki was saying but she pressed harder, asking, “how is it ethical to have these conversations with media outlets while you continue to have a job standing behind that podium?”
Psaki did not flinch, instead reiterating that she has “abided by” and gone beyond the “range of stringent ethical and legal requirements” imposed on everybody by the current administration.
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