In her debut as White House press secretary, Jen Psaki said that the daily briefings will return, but she also signaled a new direction from the years of Donald Trump.
Psaki told reporters that when Joe Biden asked her to do the job, they talked of the “importance of bringing truth and transparency back to the briefing room.”
Her predecessor, Kayleigh McEnany, often took on the tone of a campaign spokeswoman during her tenure, and even held dual roles as the election neared.
That is probably why the first question that Psaki was asked, by the Associated Press’ Zeke Miller, had to do with whether she saw her primary role “as promoting the interests of the president” or as someone “to provide us with the unvarnished truth so that we can share that with the American people.”
“I come to this podium having served in the White House and at the State Department as the spokesperson there, and I traveled the world on trips to promote democracy where I saw the power of the United States, and of course the power of this podium and the power of truth, and the importance of setting an example of engagement and transparency,” Psaki said.
“I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play. …There will be moments when we disagree and there will be days when we disagree for extensive parts of the briefing, even perhaps. I believe we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.”
“If the president were standing with me here today, he would say he works for the American, I work for him, so I also work for the American people,” she said. “So his objective and his commitment is to bring transparency and truth back to government, to share the truth even when it is hard to hear, and that is something I hope to deliver on as well.”
NBC News chief White House correspondent Peter Alexander said that “the battle for truth may be as tough right now as the battle against the coronavirus.”
“How do you and President Biden plan to combat disinformation that in many ways led to that assault that we witnessed two weeks ago today on the Capitol?” he asked.
“There are many ways to combat misinformation,” Psaki said. “One of them is accurate information and truth and data, and sharing information even when it is hard to hear.”
Her first appearance as press secretary was a contrast to that of Donald Trump’s first press secretary, who devoted his debut to challenging news reports of the inauguration crowd size. The briefings became must-watch daytime TV for a bit, drawing spoofs on Saturday Night Live.
Psaki did not answer one way or the other when asked whether the new president had confidence in FBI director Christopher Wray. She hedged, but unlike the Trump era, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Wray’s days are numbered.
Another briefing is planned for Thursday, and Psaki suggested that it could go longer than the 40 or so minutes of tonight’s appearance. During Barack Obama’s presidency, the briefings typically ran for about an hour, drawing little of the drama of the past four years.
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