Is Karine Jean-Pierre bad at her job? Or do right-wingers just not like the things she says?
Karine Jean-Pierre, Explained?
The job of the White House press secretary is a strange one. The press secretary represents the president, essentially as a spokesperson and media mouthpiece, while spinning the news of the day on the president’s behalf.
The current press secretary is Karine Jean-Pierre, who has worked for President Biden since the 2020 campaign and served as deputy press secretary before taking over the top job in May of 2022.
One thing has been very clear since Jean-Pierre took over: Conservative media types don’t think she’s very good at her job.
“Karine Jean-Pierre is a terrible White House press secretary,” a New York Post op-ed published last fall stated. In February, National Review declared that Jean-Pierre is a “World-Historically Bad Press Secretary.” (The latter piece was written by Nate Hochman, later seen fired from Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign after including a Nazi symbol in a campaign video.)
A Fox News op-ed, in May, ranked Jean-Pierre’s “five most-embarrassing strikeouts.” The author of that, Dan Gainor, acknowledged that the current press secretary is not “the worst presidential PR flack in recent memory,” giving that dishonor to Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted just 11 days as White House communications director during the Trump administration.
“Jean-Pierre provided a lot of strikeouts during her memorable rookie season, for her own team. She lied about the border (almost mandatory if you work for Biden), renamed our northern neighbors as “Canadia,” got into an intercontinental battle over press freedom in front of the stars of Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” and said House Republicans want to “give asthma to our children” and let oil companies use chemicals that would “melt bones.” She even called her boss ‘President Obama,’” Gainor wrote.
Tucker Carlson, on his Twitter show, was even meaner to the press secretary.
“In addition to many of his other sins, Joe Biden has hired what has to be the single dumbest, nastiest, most dishonest, most ridiculous person he could possibly find for the very public position of White House press secretary,” Carlson said, per Yahoo. He went on to call her “Illiterate but proud!”
Simon Ateba, a correspondent who has often butted heads with the White House, went even more personal last month. After Jean-Pierre revealed in a magazine profile that she and her romantic partner had parted ways, Ateba asked her, “Is your breakup affecting your job?”
Is it that Jean-Pierre is particularly bad at being press secretary? Or that it’s natural for political opponents to dislike the person speaking for the president they dislike?
This has often been the case for presidents and press secretaries in one party and those who analyze politics from the other side. During the early years of the George W. Bush presidency, when Ari Fleischer was press secretary, he was denounced as an “exuberant liar” by journalist Evan Thomas.
Robert Gibbs, the first press secretary in the Obama Administration, frequently fought with the left flank of the Democratic coalition, after he took shots at what he called “the professional left.”
When Donald Trump was president, Trump’s final press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, was denounced as a “liar and opportunist” by Alyssa Farah Griffin, then a fellow White House staffer, who has since reinvented herself as an anti-Trump pundit.
Writer Hari Kunzru was even tougher on McEnany, describing her as an “evacuated husk of a mean-girl cheerleader, the cavity where your heart once was pumped full of spite and moronic lies.” Kunzru, in the same series of tweets, described a previous White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as a “crude hulking beetle-browed bully… masticated another stinking quid of falsity, spitting again and again on the people you were supposed to inform.”
“Press secretaries lie to the media. That’s their job. Always has been. Either party. Every president,” conservative pundit Stephen Miller (not the former Trump Administration staffer, but a different writer of that name) wrote during the Trump presidency. “It’s enlightening to see however who in media is only outraged when some do it.”
Author Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.