For the first time as a member of the Biden White House, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stepped up to the podium May 26 with a thick, brown binder for an on-camera briefing with the White House press corps.
She briefed reporters on administration appointments, President Joe Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan and an investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, before fielding questions from reporters on numerous topics.
During the televised briefing, one reporter asked Jean-Pierre to reflect on “making history” as the first Black woman in 30 years to stand behind the White House press podium, on behalf of the president.
“Being in this building is not about one person, it’s about what we do on behalf of the American people,” Jean-Pierre, 46, said in response. “Clearly the president believes that representation matters, and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity, and it’s another reason why we are so proud that this is the most diverse administration in history.”
Prior to the scheduled briefing, Jean-Pierre’s appearance was welcomed by the media and colleagues, including Press Secretary Jen Psaki, as an historic moment. Psaki, who typically briefs the press, has announced she is leaving her role in about a year. The New York Times reported that the televised briefing by Jean-Pierre was seen internally as an audition for the press secretary role.
Although she has addressed the media on other occasions since Biden’s inauguration earlier this year, Jean-Pierre became the first openly gay Black woman to lead a formal press briefing, on May 26. Judy Smith became the first Black woman to do so, in 1991, per media reports.
No stranger to the media spotlight, Jean-Pierre has worked as a political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News and as chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org, among other roles. During campaign season, she was a senior adviser to Biden and chief of staff to then-vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris. Few, if any, Haitians have stood behind the press room lectern at the White House.
Born in Martinique to Haitian parents, Jean-Pierre has credited her immigrant family, who came to America for better opportunities, for giving her a sense of optimism about the country’s future.
“They came here for the American dream,” Jean-Pierre told The Haitian Times last October, about her parents. “They came here because they were optimistic even though they didn’t have much, even though they worked multiple jobs to have what they have.”
As a conduit between the president and the American people, Jean-Pierre assured the press of Biden’s plans to strengthen background checks for gun purchases, following a deadly shooting in California. She also shared details of a proposed federal plan to preserve and retrofit more than 2 million affordable housing units.
Her duty to provide honest information is something Jean-Pierre said she does not take lightly in her role.
“This is not about me, this is not about any of us,” Jean-Pierre said during the briefing. “We are going to be truthful, we are going to be transparent, and that’s the way I believe the president would want us to communicate to the American people.”