Closing The Gap

What to know about Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black and first openly gay White House press secretary

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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (R) introduces Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (L) during a White House daily press briefing at the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House May 5, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The White House press secretary job has existed for 93 years — and for the first time, it'll soon be held by someone who isn't white.

Karine Jean-Pierre has been named the Biden administration's new White House press secretary, becoming the first Black woman and the first out LGBTQ person to take the high-profile job. As press secretary, Jean-Pierre will speak on behalf of the president and U.S. government to address reporters, the American public and the world about policy decisions every day.

Jean-Pierre is already a familiar face in the White House briefing room: She's currently the principal deputy press secretary, and has led the White House's daily press briefing a few times already. She'll be behind the podium more often once she starts her new role on May 13.

"Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people," President Joe Biden announced in a statement Thursday.

Jean-Pierre spoke about her appointment at Thursday's press briefing: "This is a historic moment, and it's not lost on me," she said. "I understand how important it is for so many people out there, so many different communities, that I stand on their shoulders and I have been throughout my career."

Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique to Haitian parents and was raised in Queens, New York. She graduated from the New York Institute of Technology and received a Master of Public Affairs from Columbia University.

Her experience in politics is extensive. Before becoming deputy press secretary, Jean-Pierre served as a senior advisor to Biden's 2020 presidential campaign and in August 2020 was named chief of staff for Biden's vice presidential nominee, who had not yet been announced.

She previously worked in the White House under former President Barack Obama, during his 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and as a long-time advisor to Biden when he was vice president.

On Thursday, Jean-Pierre thanked outgoing Press Secretary Jen Psaki, saying "she has been just a wonderful colleague, a friend, a mentor during this past year and a half." Psaki's last day is May 13, and she's expected to take an on-air job at MSNBC.

Psaki, meanwhile, praised her history-making colleague and successor, writing on Twitter: "She will be the first black woman and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve as the White House Press Secretary. Representation matters and she will give a voice to many, but also make many dream big about what is truly possible."

"She is passionate," Psaki added. "She is smart and she has a moral core that makes her not just a great colleague, but an amazing Mom and human.  Plus, she has a great sense of humor."

Psaki, who stated her intention early in her tenure to stay in the press secretary role for only a year, previously told CNBC Make It that finding her successor was a big part of her job from day one. "I hope I can play a role bringing a greater diversity of voices and faces and experiences to people who are serving as spokespeople on behalf of the White House and the government," Psaki said.

Jean-Pierre tweeted about her appointment on Thursday, calling it "a true honor" and adding, "​​I look forward to serving this Administration and the American people. I have big shoes to fill."

Jean-Pierre led her first White House briefing in May 2021, making history as the first openly gay woman and just the second Black woman to do so.

"I appreciate the historic nature. I really do," Jean-Pierre said at the time. "But I believe that being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building isn't about one person. It's about what we do on behalf of the American people. Clearly the president believes representation matters, and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity."

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