Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy press secretary for the White House, will hold a televised briefing for the first time on Wednesday, an appearance that is seen both internally and externally as an audition for the press secretary job.
Jen Psaki, the current White House press secretary, recently said that she intended to leave the post after about a year. A former State Department spokeswoman, Ms. Psaki came to the job more battle-tested — and more familiar to the Washington press corps — than Ms. Jean-Pierre, whose work has been steeped in grass roots activism, working on Democratic campaigns and as chief public affairs officer at the liberal group MoveOn.
She is not the heir apparent to replace Ms. Psaki — other names put forth in the internal parlor game include Symone Sanders, the vice president’s press secretary, and Ned Price, the State Department spokesman — but Ms. Jean-Pierre has had frequent contact with the White House press corps in recent months.
To get better acclimated to a White House where top officials tend to obsess over discipline in messaging, Ms. Jean-Pierre, 46, has delivered occasional press briefings aboard Air Force One, a lower-stakes way to brief than on live television.
She is almost always in the room when Ms. Psaki delivers briefings, which has allowed her to familiarize herself with reporters. And the two are friendly: Before the door to the briefing room opens, they often do a dance to shake off their nerves, Ms. Psaki said in an interview with The Times in January.
Ms. Jean-Pierre has made missteps along the way. Earlier this month, the White House rushed to publish an edited transcript when Ms. Jean-Pierre mistakenly told reporters aboard Air Force One that the administration supported Ukraine’s interest in joining NATO. But at other times, she has impressed members of Mr. Biden’s inner circle, including when she kept a cool head speaking to reporters minutes after the president tripped several times while boarding his plane.
“It’s very windy,” she told reporters. “I almost fell coming up the steps myself.”
On Wednesday, her colleagues, including Ms. Psaki, said Ms. Jean-Pierre’s turn at the podium was a history-making moment. Ms. Jean-Pierre will be the first openly gay spokeswoman and the first Black woman in decades to address journalists on behalf of the president in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room. (Judy Smith, a deputy press secretary for President George H.W. Bush, was the first Black spokeswoman to do so in 1991.)
In the past, Ms. Jean-Pierre has spoken about her belief that her identity as a woman of color and daughter of Haitian immigrants cut a sharp contrast to some of the divisive policies and rhetoric that proliferated under Mr. Biden’s predecessor.
“I am everything that Donald Trump hates,” she said in a video she filmed for MoveOn. “I’m a Black woman, I’m gay, I am a mom. Both my parents were born in Haiti.”
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