White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre’s performance at briefings has reportedly frustrated beat reporters — and some Biden administration officials — in a “rocky first month” since replacing MSNBC’s Jen Psaki in the key messaging role.
Jean-Pierre’s responses to questions during the daily briefings have “baffled reporters, and even made some of her White House colleagues wince,” according to details included in Politico’s West Wing Playbook newsletter.
The press secretary has purportedly faced scrutiny for appearing unprepared for some queries or delivering “vague” responses that stick too closely to White House talking points while communicating with reporters — sparking speculation that some media members could start skipping the briefings entirely.
“At a certain point it wouldn’t surprise me if people started voting with their feet,” an unnamed White House reporter told the outlet.
“She is so focused on not making a mistake that she doesn’t let herself speak freely,” another reporter said. “A lot of her responses end up becoming … it appears that she’s reading from a page.”
The scathing report noted the frequent presence of National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, who “at times appears to function as a co-press secretary.” Jean-Pierre reportedly declined to be interviewed about the grumblings.
The report cited specific instances in which Jean-Pierre appeared to be unprepared for a line of questioning, such as an episode when she was unaware that President Biden had attended an event with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland just before she tested positive for COVID-19.
Another source of apparent frustration occurred when Jean-Pierre declined to disclose the last time Biden had been tested for the virus, even though the White House has regularly provided that information in the past.
Meanwhile, an analysis of press briefing transcripts revealed that Jean-Pierre had acknowledged lacking the information needed to answer a reporter’s question over 20 times more than Psaki through their first 10 briefings in the role.
Some Biden officials leaped to Jean-Pierre’s defense — with some allies and black communications officials in the White House’s orbit purportedly alleging that the administration “has set her up to fail” through Kirby’s frequent presence at briefings.
Deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates defended Jean-Pierre’s handling of the role thus far.
“She’s here precisely because of her respect for the indispensable role of the free press in our democracy,” Bates said in a statement.
“She is proud of her briefings — which often run longer than the modern average and have included multiple Saturday gaggles. She loves the back-and-forth with the White House press corps, and her door is always open for any feedback its members are interested in giving directly,” Bates added.
Another White House official told the outlet that reporters “would grumble regardless of who is at the podium and find ways of critiquing those individuals.”
The Post has reached out to the White House for further comment.
Jean-Pierre, 44, made history last month by becoming the first black and openly gay person to hold the key position.
She took the role as the Biden administration faces mounting pressure to respond to several ongoing sagas, including the Russia-Ukraine war, decades-high inflation, surging gas prices and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
As The Post previously reported, three top White House press officers have recently left their posts amid reports of mounting dysfunction.
Psaki has joined left-leaning news network MSNBC, where she will begin appearing this fall. The ex-press secretary is also set to host her own series on NBC’s Peacock streaming service.