Meet Jen Psaki, Biden's press secretary who's pledged to bring 'truth' back to White House press briefings

  • Biden's press secretary Jen Psaki held her first briefing hours after the January 20 inauguration.
  • She promised reporters that she would bring "truth and transparency back to the briefing room." 
  • Psaki is a veteran political communicator with experience at the White House and State Department.
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President Joe Biden's White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, is a seasoned Democratic operative and is promising a very different tenure than her most recent predecessors. 

The previous administration's relationship with the media was guided by former President Donald Trump's attacks on the free press as the "enemy of the people." Psaki, for her part, began her new role by promising to bring "truth and transparency back to the briefing room" and acknowledging how important the news media is to a democracy.

"I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role all of you play," she said during a half-hour briefing on Wednesday night. "There will be moments when we disagree … but we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people." 

Psaki promised press briefings every weekday, regular briefings with health officials, and stricter COVID-19 mitigation rules for staffers and reporters within the White House — all of which mark a clear break from the Trump White House's policies. Unlike Trump's four press secretaries, who skipped briefings sometimes for months on end and often didn't take questions, Psaki gave every reporter in the room the opportunity to ask multiple questions and maintained a collegial demeanor. She did not attack reporters or peddle in obvious lies. 

A slew of reporters and commentators responded to the briefing with a mix of praise and relief.

"First non-weird White House Press Secretary in four years," Michael Beschloss, a presidential historian and commentator, tweeted. 

But conservatives accused the press of treating Psaki better than they did her predecessors. Fox News anchor Brian Kilmeade argued that the White House reporters were overly "cordial." Kilmeade co-hosts "Fox & Friends," one of Trump's favorite TV programs, and has previously urged the ex-president not to call the media the "enemy of the people."

An experienced hand

Psaki, 42, is among the most seasoned operatives to hold her new position and is deeply familiar with the White House communications shop.

The Connecticut native began her career in Democratic politics shortly after college and rose swiftly through the ranks, chiefly as a spokesperson. She joined former President Barack Obama's first campaign in 2008, serving as his traveling press secretary, and then worked on his White House communications team as deputy press secretary and deputy communications director.

After a brief stint at a Washington, DC, political consulting firm, Psaki became the spokesperson for the State Department in 2012, defending then-Secretary of State John Kerry's global diplomacy. She was passed over for the White House press secretary role in 2014, but ultimately made her way back to the White House in 2015 as Obama's communications director.  

Despite her background, Psaki wasn't an obvious pick to be the face of the Biden administration.

Since leaving the Obama White House in January 2017, she's spent the last four years as a political commentator on CNN, a political consultant, and as a fellow at Georgetown University.

She didn't work for Biden or any other 2020 presidential candidate's campaign and joined Biden's presidential transition team without any expectation of serving in his White House, Politico reported. 

Unlike many of her predecessors and other contenders for the job, Psaki has experience with national security and foreign policy issues from her time at the State Department. She also dealt with an economic crisis under Obama's administration.

Crucially, she has a long-standing relationship with Biden. 

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