Karine Jean-Pierre had a rough start to her tenure as White House press secretary and in doing so, established herself firmly as a Republican punching bag.
But the questions raised, through Jean-Pierre’s often stumbling performances, are legitimate.
Is Karine Jean-Pierre qualified to serve in the withering press secretary role?
Karine Jean-Pierre: A Mistake for Joe Biden?
Reporting after Jean-Pierre’s first month in office, POLITICO wrote that “her answers have baffled reporters, and even made some of her White House colleagues wince. She has increasingly found herself sharing the podium or splitting briefings with John Kirby, who has been taking the lead on foreign policy and at times appears to function as a co-press secretary…her stumbles in several instances have made her appear underprepared.”
A few examples, just from Jean-Pierre’s first month in the role include: being unaware that Interior Secretary Deb Haaland had tested positive for COVID and had spent time with President Biden; having nothing to say about Biden’s dubious claim that he was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1965; her refusal to answer questions about when the last time Biden had been tested for COVID.
Press secretaries aren’t going to know everything, and it’s not uncommon for them to be honest and say, ‘I don’t know.’ “But that has been a more common response for Jean-Pierre in her first weeks than her predecessor,” POLITICO reported. “In her first 10 briefings as press secretary, Jean-Pierre said she didn’t have the information being south 20-plus times more than predecessor Jen Psaki in her first 10 briefings.”
Naturally, the right has ran with Jean-Pierre’s shortcomings. “[Jean-Pierre] …is awful at her job,” The National Review reported. “I mean that in a completely nonideological sense… rarely able to finish a sentence without referring to her notebook, even when making the most rote and banal of statements. And in some cases, she isn’t even able to put together a coherent sentence while reading directly from her notebook.”
Yeah, anytime The National Review is bashing the Biden administration you should take the criticism with a grain of salt – but to be fair, the very same article complemented Jean-Pierre’s predecessor Jen Psaki for being “competent, quick, witty.” And it’s true.
By contrast, Jean-Pierre hasn’t appeared effective behind the podium.
The bigger issue
Karine Jean-Pierre was the first black and first openly LGBTQ person ever appointed to the White House press secretary role. Naturally, when Jean-Pierre is criticized, the criticism dips into a larger conversation about DEI and about affirmative action. Implied in much of the Jean-Pierre criticism is the notion that Jean-Pierre is so bad at the job that the only reason she could have gotten the job are because of her identity markers.
Well, I’ll say this: one of the quirkiest features of the whole DEI movement is that you’re supposed to adhere to the principles of the DEI movement (i.e., hiring a more diverse team) but simultaneously, you are not to acknowledge that you are adhering to the principles of the DEI movement. What I mean is that you’re supposed to bring in diverse candidates because of their diversity but then you can’t say you brought them in because of their diversity.
It’s a weird little game.
You might even say that it’s an example of gaslighting. Anyways. Was Jean-Pierre hired because of her identity markers? Who knows. I never heard a Biden official announce before her hiring that the next press secretary would be a black woman, or would be LGBTQ – which is exactly how Biden set up his VP pick (Kamala Harris) and his Supreme Court nomination (Ketanji Brown Jackson).
At present, Jean-Pierre is still standing. And I’ll tell you what. I’d rather watch Jean-Pierre up there than Kayleigh McEnany any day of the week.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.