Karine Jean-Pierre. You’ll now be hearing that name very often.
The 44-year-old political operative was named the new White House press secretary this afternoon. President Joe Biden announced in a statement that she would succeed Jen Psaki, who has held the role since the beginning of the administration, on May 13. Jean-Pierre has previously been the principal deputy press secretary in the office, serving as Psaki’s top deputy, and has conducted briefings from the White House podium.
Jean-Pierre is long-time Democratic staffer who has served in a variety of roles. Beginning her career in New York City politics as an aide to council member James Gennaro, she was hired as Southeast Regional Political Director for then–North Carolina senator John Edwards’s 2008 presidential campaign, responsible for outreach in the Deep South.
After Edwards dropped out, she joined then-senator Barack Obama’s campaign in the same position, which she reprised in the White House during the Obama administration’s first term. In the 2012 election, she was among Obama’s top advisers on winning battleground states and heavily managed that year’s Democratic National Convention.
She then served briefly on Maryland governor Martin O’Malley’s ill-fated presidential run in 2016 before joining MoveOn.org, a progressive advocacy group, to lead their electoral work to mobilize against the Trump campaign. In this role, in 2019, she gained attention for having stopped an animal-rights activist from lunging at then-senator Kamala Harris at a MoveOn event, and shortly afterwards became a commentator on NBC News and MSNBC.
In May 2020, she joined the Biden presidential campaign as a senior adviser and later served as chief of staff to Harris, as vice presidential nominee, during the race.
The change atop the public face of the Biden administration comes at a time when the president is facing widespread criticism for his policies, particularly as inflation rises in advance of November’s congressional midterm elections.
The press secretary is the administration’s highest-profile spokesperson and is responsible for defending its decisions in daily press briefings and is subject to intense media scrutiny. Psaki — who is leaving to join MSNBC — was previously lambasted by conservatives for suggesting that Peter Doocy, the Fox News White House correspondent, sounded like a “stupid son of a bitch” with his questions.
Jean-Pierre immigrated to the U.S. from Martinique at age five, is of Haitian descent, and will be the first black woman to hold the role of press secretary. She will also be the first openly lesbian woman to hold the role, and is the partner of Suzanne Malveaux, a journalist who is a national correspondent for CNN.