As the new White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre is now the key voice of the Biden administration. She officially took the pulpit this morning, after Jen Psaki’s last day was Friday. PSAki, who is reportedly heading for a new opportunity at MSNBC, announced her departure earlier this month.
Jean-Pierre is expected to bring his own style to the white-hot spotlight, which is sure to heat up further in the coming weeks as the administration grapples with tough questions related to supply chain issues, to the war in Ukraine and the upcoming midterm elections. , in which the Democrats could lose the majority in the House. But those around her say she is equipped for the job.
“Karine not only brings the experience, talent, and integrity to this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating the work of the Biden-Harris administration on behalf of the American people,” Biden said. in a press release. .
Here are seven things to know about Jean-Pierre:
1. She is a story maker.
Jean-Pierre is the first black woman and the first openly LGBTQ person to hold the position of press secretary, since the position was created 93 years ago.
“Representation is important and it will give a voice to many, but will also make many dream of what is truly possible,” Psaki wrote of Jean-Pierre in a wire on Twitter.
Last June, in a post for Pride Month, Jean-Pierre detailed his coming-out story, in which his mother initially rejected his identity. “Just as American society has evolved over the past two decades to embrace the LGBTQ community (not to mention that we still have work to do), my family has evolved to embrace my membership in it,” he said. she writes in the thread.
2. She’s a Democratic political strategist.
It’s no surprise given the nature of her new role, but the 44-year-old has a history of working with high-profile Democratic leaders. Jean-Pierre served as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama-Biden administration and deputy director of battleground states for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
It was around this time that she and Biden hit it off. According to his memoirs To advance, Jean-Pierre and Biden had their first one-on-one conversation in 2009 while sitting next to each other on an Air Force Two flight from New Jersey. Jean-Pierre ended up traveling with Biden so much that the Secret Service gave him an official pin that granted him privileged access to the then vice president.
3. She is the daughter of Haitian immigrants.
After his parents fled Haiti, Jean-Pierre was born in Fort-de-France on the Caribbean island of Martinique. When she was five years old, she and her family then immigrated to Queens, New York, where she spent much of her childhood. Despite an engineering degree, her father worked as a taxi driver, while her mother worked as a home health aide, according to the Carnegie Corporation, which named her a 2021 Great Immigrant recipient.
“They came here for the American dream that was eluding them in so many ways,” Jean-Pierre told Judy Woodruff on PBS Newshour. “They’re still living check for check, but in their eyes, because I got to the White House, because their daughter went to Colombia, they got it.”
4. She was a high school track star.
Jean-Pierre was a literate track and field athlete during her days at Kellenberg High School on Long Island. In her memoir, Jean-Pierre describes herself as “an outstanding cross-country runner, setting records on Long Island”, adding that she was offered athletic scholarships, but instead chose to focus on academics. Nonetheless, she still raced on the New York Institute of Technology track team at Old Westbury, where she graduated in 1997. She then graduated from Columbia University in 2003.
5. She was a volunteer firefighter in college.
In To advanceJean-Pierre shares that she loved being a volunteer firefighter in college, writing, “I loved having a firefighter scanner in my car, a sticker-sized orange and black firefighter sign that I would put on on my windshield, and a blue light ready to plug into my car’s cigarette charger.
It’s not the only odd job she’s had. While working as a telephone canvasser for the Citizens’ Campaign for the Environment, Jean-Pierre also helped the group monitor Piping Plover bird nests on the beach. “My job was to check on these magical endangered birds every morning,” she wrote in her memoir.
6. She’s a self-proclaimed introvert.
Patrick Gaspard, who had hired Jean-Pierre as regional political director at the Obama White House, told the Los Angeles Times that she was “really shy and rather introverted, which you don’t expect from someone getting into activism and organizing”.
But Jean-Pierre openly agreed to be introverted. She’s candid about it in her memoir and recently said She that “sometimes being the listener, the quietest voice, has a lot more impact. It’s important to be who you authentically are, and people will see that.
7. His longtime partner, Suzanne Malveaux, is a correspondent for CNN.
Jean-Pierre and his longtime companion Suzanne Malveaux, a CNN correspondent, live in Washington with their 7-year-old daughter. Malveaux’s profession as a journalist will undoubtedly come under scrutiny.
But, according to the Washington Examiner, CNN has already nipped any conflict of interest in the bud. CNN spokesman Matt Dornic reportedly told the Examiner: “Suzanne Malveaux will continue in her role as national correspondent for CNN covering national/international news and cultural events but will not cover politics, Capitol Hill or the White House while Karine Jean-Pierre will occupy the position of attaché of White House press.”