President Biden on Thursday announced that Karine Jean-Pierre will replace Jen Psaki as White House press secretary — becoming the first black and first openly gay person to hold the position.
Jean-Pierre, 44, grew up in Queens and will replace Psaki on May 13 after working more than a year as a deputy press secretary.
The outgoing press secretary tearfully called her successor to the White House briefing room podium on Thursday evening, saying, “I just want to take the opportunity to celebrate and congratulate my friend, my colleague, my partner in truth Karine Jean-Pierre.”
Jean-Pierre told reporters, “We were doing a lot of crying — and trying not to do it now. I’m 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.”
She added, “I used to teach college students. I had the pleasure of doing that for about six, seven years. And they would ask me… ‘How did you get to where you got to?’ And I would say to them, and it took me a little bit of time to figure this part out, that I’m about to share with you, which is follow your passion. Follow what you believe in and just, you know, keep that focus, because that matters.”
Jean-Pierre was born in the French territory Martinique to Haitian parents. Her partner is CNN journalist Suzanne Malveaux.
Biden said in a statement, “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.”
“Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this administration,” Biden said.
Jean-Pierre is known for taking pains to maintain a pleasant demeanor in answering questions and for avoiding the snarky quips that fans of Psaki have dubbed “Psaki bombs” that ridicule reporters.
But Jean-Pierre also can give lengthy answers that do not directly address inquiries and has frustrated some reporters by beginning press gaggles on Air Force One as the plane prepares to land.
Psaki tweeted of Jean-Pierre: “She will be the first black woman and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve as the White House Press Secretary. Representation matters and she will give a voice to many, but also make many dream big about what is truly possible.”
Jean-Pierre is well-liked among reporters but it was unclear whether she would be taking over the top spokesperson job — leaving people guessing about Psaki’s likely successor until the decision was announced.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby and White House communications director Kate Bedingfield were considered possible contenders for the post.
Biden also released a statement praising Psaki, who is expected to join MSNBC as a political pundit.
“Jen Psaki has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House Briefing Room,” Biden said.
“I want to say thank you to Jen for raising the bar, communicating directly and truthfully to the American people, and keeping her sense of humor while doing so. I thank Jen [for] her service to the country, and wish her the very best as she moves forward.”