White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has faced increasing criticism from her colleagues in the White House and reporters in the briefing room. Jean-Pierre’s briefings continue to be packed with more talking points and less information than those of her predecessor. Regardless, it’s been a rocky first month for Jean-Pierre, and it seems that as long as she continues to play it safe at the stand, she will continue to lose the confidence of her co-workers and the press.
FOX NEWS: WH reporters frustrated by Karine Jean-Pierre press briefings, ‘lack of news’ may lower attendance: Report
Joseph A. Wufsohn; June 29, 2022
White House reporters are allegedly growing frustrated with how White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has been conducting the daily press briefings.
Politico’s “West Wing Playbook” newsletter offered a scathing assessment of Jean-Pierre’s “tough debut” since she took the helm of the White House podium following the exit of Jen Psaki, calling it a “rocky first month.”
The report claims her answers to questions have “baffled reporters” and “even made some of her White House colleagues wince.”
Playbook pointed to the RNC’s Twitter account that frequently targets Jean-Pierre as a “useful punching bag,” which similarly occurred under Psaki’s tenure in the briefing room.
The report highlighted instances where the press secretary appeared to be caught off guard like when Interior Secretary Deb Haaland just days after being in close contact with Biden or when the president made a questionable claim about how he was “appointed” to the Naval Academy.
“Reporters were confused by her refusal to answer questions at a recent briefing about the last time the president had been tested for Covid-19, something her predecessor regularly disclosed,” the Playbook wrote. “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. But that has been a more common response for Jean-Pierre in her first weeks than her predecessor.”
Politico found that “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 transcripts.
“And while White House reporters love to complain about non-answers from communications officials, many have privately grumbled that when Jean-Pierre does have answers, they are often vague and rarely stray from the pre-written talking points prepared in the binder at the podium,” Playbook wrote.
One White House reporter told Politico, “At a certain point it wouldn’t surprise me if people started voting with their feet,” suggesting briefing attendance could dwindle among reporters for the “lack of news” that comes from the podium.
Another reporter said to Politico, “She is so focused on not making a mistake that she doesn’t let herself speak freely,” adding, “A lot of her responses end up becoming… it appears that she’s reading from a page.”
The newsletter alleged that allies of Jean-Pierre and Black communications officials both in and outside the Biden administration “feel White House leadership has set her up to fail” with the constant presence of John Kirby, who recently transitioned to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. after being Biden’s Pentagon spokesman, to take the lead on foreign policy questions in the briefing room.
A White House official took a swipe at Politico’s report, telling Fox News, “If you work at a place called ‘Politico‘ and you think it’s noteworthy that the RNC or DNC is attacking a press secretary from the other party, you have some reading to do.”
In a statement to Fox News, White House press secretary Andrew Bates said, “As Karine said when she was announced as Press Secretary, she’s here precisely because of her respect for the indispensable role of the free press in our democracy.”
“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,” Bates added.
The Biden administration touted the appointment of Karine Jean-Pierre as the first Black and openly-gay White House press secretary. Psaki officially left the podium in May and has since joined MSNBC as a contributor and a host on the Peacock streaming service.
Photo: Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein