Jen Psaki bids farewell to the White House podium
Jen Psaki held her last briefing as White House press secretary on Friday as she prepares to become the highest-profile White House official to depart the Biden administration.
Psaki began the briefing by thanking President Biden and first lady Jill Biden, White House officials and members of her press team, growing emotional at times.
“They are incredibly tough, smart, hardworking and deeply, deeply good human beings,” Psaki said of her colleagues.
“People always ask me … whether Washington is rotten, whether everyone is corrupt here and nothing good happens and we all just argue with each other,” she said. “I, having done this job, believe the absolute opposite is true.”
Psaki also thanked the reporters who cover the White House for the role they play in democracy.
“You have challenged me, you have pushed me, you have debated me, and at times we have disagreed. That is democracy in action,” she said. “Without accountability, without debate, government is not as strong.”
Psaki fielded questions from reporters for about an hour on Friday afternoon, slightly longer than a normal press briefing. Her husband, Gregory Mecher, watched on silently in the briefing room, which was more packed with reporters and officials than usual.
Psaki’s final appearance was not without interruption — a reporter sitting in the back of the room repeatedly interrupted the beginning of the briefing to demand Psaki take questions from the back rows.
The appearance was Psaki’s 224th White House briefing over nearly 16 months, according to a tally from Martha Kumar, director of the White House Transition Project.
Psaki will turn the podium over to Karine Jean-Pierre, the principal deputy press secretary who will become the first Black and first openly gay person to serve as press secretary. Jean-Pierre will start briefing next week.
The high-profile change in the communications shop comes six months before the midterm elections as the White House faces a range of domestic and international challenges, from the war in Ukraine to sky-high inflation.
There have been other notable departures from the White House, such as Jeff Zients, Biden’s first COVID-19 czar, but the turnover has been relatively low in Biden’s first year and a half.
Psaki, who stayed in the press secretary role a few months longer than she had initially expected, is said to be planning to join MSNBC, though she has not spoken publicly about those plans and has suggested she’ll spend time at home with her family before moving on to her next job.
Reflecting on her tenure during a Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters on Thursday, Psaki offered some advice to her successor: spend as much time as possible talking to Biden and sitting in on policy meetings to understand where the president is on an issue and what is happening from a policy standpoint.
“One of your most important jobs in this role is to represent, speak for his views and his thinking and his policies,” she said of Biden in response to a question from The Hill.
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