Karine Jean-Pierre to become White House press secretary, the first Black and out LGBT person in role
(CNN) — Karine Jean-Pierre will become the new White House press secretary when Jen Psaki departs her role next week, President Joe Biden announced in a statement Thursday, becoming the first Black and out LGBTQ person to hold the position.
Jean-Pierre currently serves as the White House’s principal deputy press secretary.
“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,” Biden said in a statement, adding that “Jen Psaki has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House Briefing Room.”
Jean-Pierre will formally begin following Psaki’s last day, which will be May 13. CNN reported in April that Psaki was planning on leaving her role for one at MSNBC.
Last May, Jean-Pierre became the second Black woman in history to hold the daily press briefing. She has served on the White House’s senior communications team since Biden took office and before that was an adviser to his campaign and chief of staff to now-Vice President Kamala Harris.
Jean-Pierre’s family includes her partner, CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter.
“I am still processing it because, as Jen said, at the top this is a historic moment and it’s not lost on me. I understand how important it is for so many people out there. So many different communities that I stand on their shoulders,” Jean-Pierre said.
She added: “It is an honor and a privilege to be behind this podium.”
Jean-Pierre also took a moment to thank Psaki.
“She has been just a wonderful colleague, a friend, a mentor, during this past year and a half and I don’t think I would be here without so many people, but including her and she is just just a true solid, amazing person,” Jean-Pierre said.
Jean-Pierre is familiar with her new role. She is often in the room when Psaki briefs reporters, has filled in for her for at the lectern and has also gaggled with reporters traveling with Biden on Air Force One. Recently, she replaced Psaki at the last minute for Biden’s four-day trip to Europe amid the Russian invasion after Psaki tested positive for Covid-19 the day before Biden was scheduled to leave.
Psaki’s departure is unsurprising, given she had been public about her plan to leave after one year on the job. Several names had been under consideration to replace her, including Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, who has become a visible face of the administration in briefings and on cable television since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
At the White House briefing Thursday, a visibly moved Psaki invited Jean-Pierre up to the podium with her and the two women embraced as Psaki went through Jean-Pierre’s qualifications and the significance of her taking the job.
“I just want to take the opportunity to celebrate and congratulate my friend, my colleague, my partner in truth, Karine Jean-Pierre, the next White House press secretary,” Psaki told reporters at the White House.
She added: “She will be the first black woman, the first out LGBTQ+ person to serve in this role, which is amazing because representation matters and she is going to, she will give a voice to so many and allow and show so many what is truly possible when you work hard, and dream big and that matters, and … we should celebrate that.”
Psaki also elaborated on Jean-Pierre’s career up, describing her as a “remarkable” person with “decades of experience.”
“I just can’t wait to see her shine at the podium. So congratulations, and I can’t wait to see you bring your own style, and brilliance, to this job, ” Psaki said.
Close Biden adviser returns to White House
The staffing shakeup in the press office comes as the White House is making several other personnel moves in preparation for a potential Republican takeover on Capitol Hill in the midterm elections. One of Biden’s closest advisers, Anita Dunn, will return to the West Wing as a senior adviser, as his team also shores up the White House counsel’s office, given Republicans have promised to launch a slew of investigations if they retake the majority.
Dunn is permanently leaving her consulting firm, SKDK, people familiar with the matter tell CNN. She will no longer be a partner in the firm or listed on the company’s website, people familiar with the matter say.
While Dunn no longer owns a piece of the firm, after it was sold in 2015, her role as a top strategist to Biden, former President Barack Obama and many other elected Democratic officials has given SKDK significant prominence in Washington and beyond. During the presidential campaign and the first several months of the Biden administration, Dunn took a leave of absence from the firm. But given the new role at the White House, people familiar with the matter say, she is severing ties with the firm.
An official says Dunn will now be a full-time staff member, and — as with any other full-time staff member — will sign the ethics pledge, file an OGE 278 and be subject to all White House ethics and conflict of interest rules, including “rigorous counseling” on her ethics obligations.