Karine Jean-Pierre Will Become the First Black and First Openly Gay White House Press Secretary

Last May, Jean-Pierre became the first openly gay woman, and the second Black woman, to lead a briefing

White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre arrives for a press briefing in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC on May 26, 2021
White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty

Karine Jean-Pierre will soon make history — again. The principal deputy press secretary, 44, was announced on Thursday as the next White House press secretary.

She will replace Jen Psaki when Psaki departs from the role on May 13 for what has been reported to be a role with MSNBC.

In a statement issued Thursday, President Joe Biden announced that Jean-Pierre had also been promoted to assistant to the president.

"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, 79, said. "Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration."

In his statement, the president offered well-wishes as well for Psaki, a longtime Democratic spokeswoman who has served in the role since the first day of the administration last year and who embodied Biden'S push to have a less combative relationship with journalists than predecessor Donald Trump.

(Nonetheless, Psaki has also faced her share of sharp questions and occasional controversies.)

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"Jen Psaki has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House Briefing Room. 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," President Biden said in his statement. "I thank Jen her service to the country, and wish her the very best as she moves forward."

Last May, Jean-Pierre became the first openly gay woman, and only the second Black woman, to lead a press briefing.

She said then: "It's a real honor to be standing here today ... I appreciate the historic nature," adding, "I believe that being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building, is not about one person."

"It's about what we do on behalf of the American people," she said. "Clearly, the resident believes representation matters and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity, and it's another reason why I think we are all so proud that this is the most diverse administration in history.

Born in Haiti, Jean-Pierre previously worked as a campaign organizer and as the national spokeswoman for MoveOn.org before joining the Biden administration.

Her partner, journalist Suzanne Malveaux, works for CNN.

In addition to being the first Black woman to serve as press secretary, Pierre will be the first openly gay woman to do so. In 2015, Eric Schultz — who served as a deputy White House press secretary under President Barack Obama — became the first openly gay person to conduct an on-camera White House news briefing.

In 1991, Judy Smith — whose work inspired the character of Olivia Pope on the show Scandal — was the first Black woman to brief the White House press corps when she worked as deputy press secretary for President George H. W. Bush.

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