Jen Psaki held her 224th and final briefing as White House press secretary on Friday and fought back tears as she thanked President Joe Biden, members of the administration and the press staff.
Karine Jean-Pierre, who has served as principal deputy press secretary, will succeed Psaki, who has been in the role for the past 15 months.
In remarks on her tenure, Psaki recounted meeting with Biden and Jill Biden shortly after the election and being “very nervous” when she went to see them.
“Really what we talked about for the majority of our conversation was the importance of returning integrity, respect and civility to the White House,” Psaki said. “The small sliver of my job here and in engaging with all of you, that does not mean that we haven’t let our Irish side show — mine and the president’s as well from time to time. I recognize that. But on my best days, and as I look back, I hope I followed the example of integrity and grace that they have set for all of us.”
Under Psaki’s tenure, she returned the daily briefing as a regular part of the White House schedule. According to CNN, citing figures from Martha Joynt Kumar, Psaki held more briefings than all of the Trump-era press secretaries combined. One of Trump’s press secretaries, Stephanie Grisham, held no official briefings.
Psaki also thanked members of the press “for making me better.”
“You have challenged me, and you have pushed me, you have debated me, and at times we have disagreed,” she said. “That is democracy in action. Without accountability, without debate, government is not as strong, and you all play an incredibly pivotal role.”
Psaki has not an official announcement about her professional plans, but sources have said that she plans to take a role at MSNBC. The job of a press secretary also is all-consuming, and she has balanced those demands along with raising two children, aged 4 and 6 years old. Joining her at the briefing was her husband, Gregory Mecher. “He has not only been a supporter and advocate of mine, and he is an incredible partner and dad and I wouldn’t be here without him,” she said.
Later in the briefing Psaki was asked what she had learned on on the job. She talked of the importance of face time with the president and to engage with him and ask questions “because our job is to speak on his behalf.” She also talked of the need to have in-depth policy knowledge in questioning White House policy teams.
“The last thing I would say is that it can be repetitive in here from time to time,” she told reporters. “That’s not a critique. You are all doing your jobs. But in the age of social media, always provide the context and all of the details, because you never want to be a meme with one line.”
Fox News’ Peter Doocy, who frequently sparred with Psaki at press briefings, tweeted a photo of the two, writing, “End of an era in the Brady briefing room! Good luck, @jrpsaki.” Fox & Friends ran a “greatest hits” of Doocy’s interactions with Psaki. Doocy actually had words of praise for Psaki. “If you are Joe Biden and you inherit a ton of problems, you want someone like Jen Psaki out there defending your position and explaining your position,” he said.
End of an era in the Brady briefing room! Good luck, @jrpsaki pic.twitter.com/xr8bzLaA65
— Peter Doocy (@pdoocy) May 13, 2022
Also departing the White House: Maria “Pili” del Pilar Tobar as deputy communications director. Communications director Kate Bedingfield wrote, “We will all miss Pili’s insights, smart ideas and calm demeanor (a major asset in a good colleague!). And I will miss her friendship and dry humor day in and day out.” Tobar has said that she plans to return to the private sector.
Yesterday was my last day at @WhiteHouse. The past 3 yrs have been an adventure working with an amazing team to elect @POTUS & serve the American people. It has been an honor & privilege! Thank you @WHCommsDir for bringing me in, for being such a great leader, person and friend
— pilitobar46 (@pilitobar46) May 13, 2022
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