New press secretary hails barrier breakers who paved way

May 16, 2022, 3:18 PM | Updated: 9:04 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Karine Jean-Pierre held her first briefing as the new White House press secretary on Monday, crediting “barrier-breaking people” who came before her for making it possible for a Black, gay, immigrant woman like herself to rise to one of the most high-profile jobs in American government.

“I stand on their shoulders. If it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me, I would not be here,” Jean-Pierre said. “But I benefit from their sacrifices. I have learned from their excellence and I am forever grateful to them.”

President Joe Biden entrusted Jean-Pierre, 47, and the daughter of Haitian immigrants, with the responsibility of being his chief spokesperson earlier this month. Jen Psaki, who had held the job since the start of the administration, stepped down last Friday.

Jean-Pierre is the first Black woman and openly LGBTQ person to serve as White House press secretary. She had been the principal deputy press secretary and led the briefing on several occasions, making history in May 2021 when she first subbed for Psaki.

She also held regular off-camera “gaggles” with the much smaller group of reporters who travel aboard Air Force One with the president.

Jean-Pierre takes over as the White House faces an uphill battle to help Democrats hold onto the House and Senate in November’s midterm elections, and as the administration struggles to address the public’s concerns about rising consumer prices and the state of the economy.

She also steps up as Biden faces a daunting array of foreign policy challenges, including Russia’s war against Ukraine and North Korea’s escalating nuclear testing program. Biden is set to visit South Korea and Japan later this week, followed by stops in Europe in June.

Jean-Pierre opened Monday’s briefing by sharing brief biographies of the 10 Black people who were killed Saturday during a racially motivated shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket. She will accompany Biden when he visits the city on Tuesday.

“Representation does matter,” Jean-Pierre said as she credited Biden with building a diverse administration, starting with Kamala Harris as the first woman and person of Black and Indian descent to be elected vice president.

She sought to shift attention away from herself, saying the White House and the press briefing room belong to the American people and that she works “for them.”

“It’s not about me. It’s about them,” she said, before pledging to continue to work to make sure the White House press team she now leads meets Biden’s expectations of providing the public with “truth, honesty and transparency.”

Jean-Pierre also spoke Monday of her “tremendous respect” for the work of the journalists seated in the briefing room and waiting to pepper her with questions.

“The press plays a vital role in our democracy and we need a strong and independent press now more than ever,” she said. “We might not see eye to eye here in this room all the time, which is OK. That give and take is so incredibly healthy and it’s a part of our democracy and I look forward to engaging with all of you on that.”

Psaki weighed in on Twitter.

“Proud to know you @PressSec,” she tweeted, using Jean-Pierre’s new Twitter handle. “Representation matters. Great job on day one. Rooting for you from home.”

Jean-Pierre worked on Biden’s presidential campaign before following him to the White House. Before the campaign, she was the chief public affairs officer of the progressive group MoveOn and a political analyst for NBC and MSNBC. She also worked on political affairs in President Barack Obama’s White House and on his reelection campaign, as well as numerous other Democratic political campaigns.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the chamber at the Capitol in Washingt...

Associated Press

McCarthy rejects Senate spending bill while scrambling for a House plan that averts a shutdown

A government shutdown appeared all but inevitable as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dug in Thursday.

2 days ago

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Kari Lake reportedly plans to launch US Senate bid in Arizona for seat held by Kyrsten Sinema

Republican Kari Lake will soon launch her campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by independent Kyrsten Sinema, a senior adviser said Thursday.

2 days ago

Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jers...

Associated Press

3rd Republican presidential debate is set for Nov. 8 in Miami, with the strictest qualifications yet

The third Republican presidential debate will be held in Miami on Nov. 8, a day after several states hold off-year elections.

8 days ago

During the equinox, the Earth’s axis and its orbit line up so that both hemispheres get an equal ...

Associated Press

The fall equinox is here. What does that mean?

The equinox arrives on Saturday, marking the start of the fall season for the Northern Hemisphere. But what does that actually mean?

8 days ago

Ray Epps Ray Epps, an Arizona man who became the center of a conspiracy theory about Jan. 6, 2021, ...

Associated Press

Ray Epps, an Arizona man who supported Trump, pleads guilty to Capital riot charge

Ray Epps, the target of a conspiracy theory about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge.

10 days ago

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly declined in an interview aired Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, to ...

Associated Press

Trump refuses to say in a TV interview how he watched the Jan. 6 attack unfold at the US Capitol

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly declined in an interview aired Sunday to answer questions about whether he watched the Capitol riot.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.


Ignite Digital

How to unlock the power of digital marketing for Phoenix businesses

All businesses around the Valley hopes to maximize their ROI with current customers and secure a greater market share in the digital sphere.


Mayo Clinic

Game on! Expert sports physicals focused on you

With tryouts quickly approaching, now is the time for parents to schedule physicals for their student-athlete. The Arizona Interscholastic Association requires that all student-athletes must have a physical exam completed before participating in team practices or competition.

New press secretary hails barrier breakers who paved way