Amateur hour at the White House briefing room
Karine Jean-Pierre made her historic debut as White House press secretary this week. And after watching her first four performances as the president’s spokesperson, only one word sums it all up: amateur.
To be sure, White House press secretary is one of the hardest white-collar jobs in the world, if not the hardest. Oftentimes, as we witnessed with Jean-Pierre’s predecessor, Jen Psaki, the job calls for defending the indefensible. And when 79 percent of voters believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and when the public’s approval of the president’s handling of the economy and the border is languishing in the 20s, that’s not a job most would sign up for.
But Jean-Pierre isn’t just a victim of bad luck regarding the president for whom she works. This early conclusion comes after watching this press secretary read answers to questions, oftentimes for extended periods of time, verbatim.
The confidence simply is not there, nor is the conviction. Consider this exchange between the new press secretary and Peter Doocy on Monday after the Fox News White House correspondent read the following tweet from Biden on May 16.
“You want to bring down inflation? Let’s make sure the wealthiest corporations pay their fair share,” the president tweeted.
Doocy: “How does raising taxes on corporations lower the cost of gas, the cost of a used car, the cost of food, for everyday Americans?”
What followed was akin to a high school student putting together a series of sentences in order to achieve a mandatory word count on a term paper. Here was the answer verbatim, per the official White House transcript:
Jean-Pierre: “So, look, I think we encourage those who have done very well — right? — especially those who care about climate change, to support a fairer tax — tax code that doesn’t change — that doesn’t charge manufacturers’ workers, cops, builders a higher percentage of their earnings; that the most fortunate people in our nation — and not let the — that stand in the way of reducing energy costs and fighting this existential problem, if you think about that as an example, and to support basic collective bargaining rights as well. Right? That’s also important. But look, it is — you know, by not — if — without having a fairer tax code, which is what I’m talking about, then all — every — like manufacturing workers, cops — you know, it’s not fair for them to have to pay higher taxes than the folks that — who are — who are — who are not paying taxes at all or barely have.”
The original question about how raising taxes on corporations lowers inflation did not get answered.
On another occasion on Wednesday, a reporter asked if there is “a new level of alarm within the White House about the stock market?” The question came after stocks plunged for a sixth straight day, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing more than 1,100 points, the biggest drop in two years.
Jean-Pierre: “We do not — that’s not something that we keep an eye on every day. And so, I don’t — I’m not going to comment about that from here.”
So while more than 144 million Americans own stock, and many more are invested in 401Ks for their retirement, the White House isn’t keeping an eye on it. Sleep tight, America.
For all Psaki’s flaws – among the most notable were pushing hilariously false narratives such as blaming former President Trump for the current border crisis and arguing that spending additional trillions will lower inflation and the deficit and that Republicans want to defund the police – there was confidence behind her answers regardless of whether they were convincing or not. Psaki left the White House for MSNBC, which led to Jean-Pierre’s promotion.
Then there’s the question of Jean-Pierre’s credibility based on her past statements which, if uttered by a conservative or anyone named Trump, would be characterized as a chilling attack on democracy.
“Stolen election … welcome to the world of #unpresidented Trump,” she tweeted after the 2016 election.
“Trump always finds a way to take it to the lowest of lows. Not only is he petulant dotard but also a deplorable illegitimate president,” was her sentiment in 2017.
“Reminder: Brian Kemp stole the gubernatorial election from Georgians and Stacey Abrams,” she said of Abrams’s gubernatorial loss to Republican Brian Kemp.
It’s a good thing the new Government Disinformation Board has been put on hold, because these reckless claims should be placed at the top of the list. And of course, Twitter did not suspend Jean-Pierre’s account or take those tweets down despite breaking its number one rule regarding false or misleading claims.
Elon Musk is correct: The platform does have a “very far-left bias.” Jean-Pierre should apologize while taking these tweets down, but that ain’t happening and likely never will because a mostly compliant media isn’t broaching them or calling her a conspiracy theorist. And you know that would not be the case if a press secretary for a Republican president made such chilling claims.
The coverage of Jean-Pierre thus far has focused not on her performance but on her gender, race and sexual orientation.
Karine Jean-Pierre leads history-making first briefing as White House press secretary” — USA Today
“New press secretary hails barrier breakers who paved the way for her” — NBC News
Meanwhile, on Friday, it was announced that Pentagon spokesman John Kirby is heading to the White House. Multiple reports say Kirby will appear in place of Jean-Pierre on occasion but will not be officially sharing duties with her.
Kirby, who is steady, likable and credible in this role at the Pentagon, should have been the president’s first choice to replace Psaki. He’s also relatively fearless in appearing on all the cable news networks, including Fox News on multiple occasions. The decision about Psaki’s replacement should have been one of the easier ones for the president to make. Alas, it went to Jean-Pierre.
And if she is wise, she will reach out to past successful press secretaries who served under Democratic presidents. Mike McCurry was excellent under President Clinton, as were Robert Gibbs, Jay Carney and Josh Earnest under President Obama.
It’s a good bet all of these former press secretaries would be happy to help, because learning by doing during an election year simply isn’t going to cut it.
Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist and a Fox News contributor.
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