Is Karine Jean-Pierre a press secretary or a babysitter? It’s a reasonable question to ask in the aftermath of President Biden’s disastrous Vietnam press conference. After witnessing her boss painfully ramble his way through a statement (“You know, it’s – and one – one of them is – there’s – there’s a movie about John Wayne”), Jean-Pierre abruptly announced to reporters that the event was over – allowing Biden to get the much-needed sleep he had bizarrely alluded to earlier.
It takes a lot of guts to interrupt a president mid-sentence. But Jean-Pierre isn’t your average press secretary: she’s a Vogue star. A feature in the magazine, published last week, abounds with sympathy for Jean-Pierre’s difficult role, quoting White House communications director Ben LaBolt as saying that “you tend to get a lot more criticism than you do praise.” But the profile casts nary a sideways glance at the Jean-Pierre.
The whole, breezy feature is an exercise in vapid hero-worship, from its platitude-plagued headline (“White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Has Made History – And Waves”) to its assumption that the literal job description for a White House press secretary is suddenly groundbreaking (“I signed up to speak on behalf of this president. That’s why he selected me.”).
The article lauds her history-making role as “the first Black person and first openly gay person to hold the position” and says that “directness – blunt, with a touch of compassion – is Jean-Pierre’s currency at the briefing podium.” That’s certainly one way to describe her decision to shoo-away Biden from the press podium while he was in the middle of answering a question.
With such glowing praise, it’s no surprise that Jean-Pierre has already started thinking about her legacy. She believes she will be best-remembered for swerving in front of a protester who rushed the stage in front of Vice President Kamala Harris, then a senator, in a “famous video” from 2019. This writer, for one, had never seen it, and I somehow doubt that most Americans will be able to recall it, either.
In fact, if they do think of the press secretary, it will likely be to remember when she belittled their concerns about the economy, appeared to blame the Nashville school shooting this spring on Congressional Republicans, or claimed that illegal immigration has dropped 90 percent under the Biden administration, accusing an incredulous reporter who disputed her claims of being “dramatic.”
There’s that “touch of compassion”!
One has to ask: where was Vogue when Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and Kayleigh McEnany were working as press secretaries in the White House? It should come as little surprise that the magazine took a rather less favourable view towards these Republican women.
Sanders was first up on the chopping block. “Screaming at the TV while White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempts to spin President Trump’s tweets into some semblance of logic has become a national pastime for some people (raises hand),” the article reads. “But this week on The View, veteran hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar performed the noble public service of confronting Huckabee Sanders to her face.”
Grisham fared a bit better, with the tired appraisal “No One From the Trump Administration Deserves a Book Deal.” In an article titled “Everything You Need to Know About Kayleigh McEnany,” we learn that Trump’s final press secretary is “an especially troubling hire” and “yet another press secretary poised to have an adversarial relationship with the press.”
The assumption here, of course, is that the press secretary shouldn’t have an adversarial relationship with the press because the liberals in the corporate media should be able to take out their notepads and shut off their brains during a Democratic administration.
Perhaps more concerning than the perpetual double standard from the legacy media is its absolute incuriousness when it comes to Democratic politicians. Biden is hardly a scandal-free president (what’s that laptop everyone’s been talking about?), with his favourability polling dropping to perilous lows. As yesterday’s debacle appeared to illustrate, he can’t even be trusted to speak independently of his team – and yet, the liberal press doesn’t seem to care.
Jean-Pierre’s profile revealed that she has parted ways with her longtime girlfriend, Suzanne Malveaux, a former CNN correspondent. It failed to mention that when Malveaux left her job at CNN in January, she had worked at the network for 20 years. Suddenly that cozy coverage is starting to make a bit more sense.
Jean-Pierre’s predecessor, Jen Psaki, now enjoys a cushy prime-time gig at MSNBC, a move that even NBC journalists thought was a bad look. Some staffers “have complained to their superiors that the tentative hiring tarnishes the NBC News brand,” CNN reported in April 2022, after Psaki’s hiring was announced.
Psaki, the professional truth twister with a Vogue profile of her own, promised to bring her “passion” for “calling out BS” to her new job, which is really just her old job in a different room. When the Biden administration finds itself in need of a new “historical” press secretary, Jean-Pierre may join her: “perhaps she will return to cable news, having already served as a commentator on MSNBC and NBC,” the Vogue profile notes.
The whiplash from White House to cable news and back should concern those who care about hearing the truth when they turn on the TV. It seems like most major media outlets, from MSNBC to Vogue, assume that such discerning viewers don’t exist. Democracy dies in darkness – the liberal press would do well to remember that.