As White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre marks two months at the podium, some of the reporters she interacts with each day offered their assessments of her performance in the notoriously difficult, high-profile job.
Her predecessor Jen Psaki received cable news offers and widespread praise from the left-leaning press corps, with one White House scribe even anonymously confessing they were afraid to have a verbal scuffle with Psaki for fear of looking like an “a–hole.”
It hasn’t been as sunny for Jean-Pierre, with Politico’s West Wing Playbook already declaring last month she’d suffered “unforced stumbles” and private “grumbles” from reporters, owing to her tendency to stick to the binder and deliver talking points rather than engage in extemporaneous back-and-forths with the press.
“If your M.O. is going to be reading prepared answers, you should have a lot of prepared answers so that you’re not just deferring to reporters constantly,” a current White House reporter told Fox News Digital.
“She is poorly received as she isn’t taking time to answer questions or banter with reporters on the issues of the day,” another White House reporter said. “A press secretary has to share some information, kind of a give and take, but she just doesn’t appear willing to do that yet… Too often, she is telling reporters that she ‘has nothing from the podium’ to say, which is a waste of everyone’s time.”
The reporter said she is getting better at working around the room to call on more reporters but tends to ignore the more “combative” ones.
Jean-Pierre also has taken heat for appearing uninformed at times.On several occasions, she’s confessed lack of knowledge of a specific, prominent news story when asked for comment. Another time, on June 1, she didn’t know that President Biden had a recent close contact with COVID-positive Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
“They were together on Memorial Day,” a Daily Mail reporter noted.
“Oh, were they?” she replied. “OK.”
“There are pictures of them,” the reporter added.
“OK, great. Well, thank you for that reminder,” Jean-Pierre said.
When asked to comment last week on a 2018 voicemail President Biden left for his son Hunter concerning his business dealings, she pivoted to saying she wouldn’t comment on “alleged materials from the laptop.”
“The obvious frustration is that Karine is by the book, literally by the book,” the first White House reporter said. “And that means that unless your question has some pre-prepared response in that book, you’re probably not going to get anything new out of her. I’m not sure if that’s a deliberate strategy by this administration to focus the conversation or limit it, but unless she is prepared and has a prepared response, you’re not going to get much out of her. At this point, on some of the more hot button topics, I mean, we’re always parsing answers, but now we’re parsing non-answers as well.”
Asked if it was better for her to not speak out of her depth and potentially deliver bad information, the reporter said she could better avail herself of the White House’s considerable resources.
“I don’t want to give anyone advice, but I think that if she wasn’t prepared to do a give-and-take on any of these issues, you know, there’s a way for her to speed up and learn about all of these issues so that she can, you know, mix it up with reporters. I’m not certain if that’s something that the White House wants right now, though, because remember, Jen Psaki’s parting advice to Karine was ‘don’t worry too much about winning the argument in the room’,” they said.
Politico reported that Black communications officials inside and outside the White House thought the repeated presence of National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was effectively undercutting Jean-Pierre.
“It’s almost as if he’s the second press secretary, he shows up all the time, takes questions that she should answer, and steals the shine and the show from her. It’s a strange situation,” Today News Africa correspondent Simon Ateba said.
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