After 16 months of circling back with Jen Psaki, one would have thought mainstream, mostly liberal journalists would be thrilled to have America’s first openly gay, black female White House press secretary.
But according to Politico, the first month with Karine Jean-Pierre at the podium has been nothing short of “wince”-worthy.
“Her answers have baffled reporters, and even made some of her White House colleagues wince,” wrote reporters Max Tani, Alex Thompson, and Allie Bice for Politico’s West Wing Playbook on Wednesday. “She has increasingly found herself sharing the podium or splitting briefings with John Kirby, who has been taking the lead on foreign policy and at times appears to function as a co-press secretary.”
Karine Jean-Pierre did a cringe-worthy job dodging Doocy’s first shot https://t.co/v7C23xlljN
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) May 17, 2022
As journalists and American citizens struggle to cope with an onslaught of enormous issues that include a war in Ukraine, gun control, dismal approval ratings, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court, the Politico reporters note that Jean-Pierre’s “stumbles in several instances have made her appear underprepared — in moments quickly weaponized by the right.”
Citing Jean-Pierre’s ignorance of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s positive COVID-19 test just two days after joining President Biden at a Memorial Day event (“Oh, were they?” the press sec asked reporters) and her response to the president’s dubious claim to Naval Academy graduates that he was appointed to the Academy in 1965 (“I didn’t hear that part of the speech,”) the Politico writers expressed concern for her general lack of preparedness.
“Press secretaries can’t possibly keep tabs on every story line so it’s not unusual for them to acknowledge when they don’t know the answer and pledge to find more information after the briefing,” they wrote. “But that has been a more common response for Jean-Pierre in her first weeks than her predecessor.”
“In her first 10 briefings as press secretary, Jean-Pierre said she didn’t have the information being sought 20-plus times more than predecessor Jen Psaki in her first 10 briefings, according to a review of the transcripts by West Wing Playbook,” they reported.
When she does have answers, claim some White House reporters, “they are often vague and rarely stray from the pre-written talking points prepared in the binder at the podium.”
One such reporter fears her lackluster performance and dearth of information may lead to fewer reporters showing up at the briefings. “At a certain point it wouldn’t surprise me if people started voting with their feet,” the reporter told Politico.
While the reporters whom Jean-Pierre is meant to inform may be grumbling, White House officials, presumably loath to see a person who checks every inclusivity box for the administration fail, are singing her praises.
“She’s here precisely because of her respect for the indispensable role of the free press in our democracy,” gushed deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates. “She is proud of her briefings — which often run longer than the modern average and have included multiple Saturday gaggles. She loves the back and forth with the White House press corps, and her door is always open for any feedback its members are interested in giving directly.”
And if you think she’s too reliant on her briefing book or that she fears going off-script as much as she fears the President going off-script, you just don’t understand how much reporters like to complain.
“They would grumble regardless of who is at the podium and find ways of critiquing those individuals, said one senior White House official.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) June 3, 2022
As for her constant inability to answer predictable questions, another official claimed the alternative is for her to make things up “on the spot” like, he alleges, Trump’s press secretaries routinely did.
“Singling her out like this is nonsensical,” the official stated. “The alternative is the Trump model of outright lying and making things up on the spot — is that honestly critics’ preference?”
Not surprisingly, the official, who offered no examples to support his or her claims, did not wish to be named.
But the ultimate liberal explanation for Jean-Pierre’s failures as a press secretary came from what Politico calls “some Black communications officials in and outside the administration.”
It’s not that she sucks at what she’s been hired to do, it’s that she was set up to fail by “White House leadership” and a white guy who really wanted her job.
Those officials, “along with allies of Jean-Pierre, feel White House leadership has set her up to fail by having Kirby, a white man who was in the running for her job, hovering nearby and taking the lead on foreign policy,” Politico writes.
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