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‘Representation does matter’: Karine Jean-Pierre holds first briefing as White House press secretary

The Boston Globe logo The Boston Globe 5/16/2022 Amanda Kaufman
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre held her first news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Monday. © Chip Somodevilla White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre held her first news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Monday.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black woman and openly LGBTQ+ person to serve as White House press secretary, held her first briefing on Monday, marking the historic nature of her appointment to the role and pledging to engage honestly with reporters.

“I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts,” Jean-Pierre said before taking questions from reporters. “I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman, the first of all three of those to hold this position.”

Jean-Pierre said she would not have ascended to the role without the “generations of barrier-breaking people” who led the way.

“I stand on their shoulders,” Jean-Pierre said. “If it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me, I would not be here, but I benefit from their sacrifices, I have learned from their excellence, and I am forever grateful to them.”


Video: Karine Jean-Pierre holds White House press briefing, touts administration's diversity (USA TODAY)

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“Representation does matter,” Jean-Pierre continued. “You hear us say this often in this administration, and no one understands this better than President Biden,” Jean-Pierre said, as she sought to highlight the diversity of Biden’s administration.

“When I did my first briefing as principal deputy press secretary last year, almost a year ago, I said at this podium that this podium, this room, this building belonged to the American people,” Jean-Pierre said. “We work for them. It’s not about me. It’s about them. It was true, then, and it is very true indeed today.”

Jean-Pierre pledged to “work every day to continue to ensure we are meeting the president’s high expectation of truth, honesty, and transparency.”

Jean-Pierre also said she has “tremendous respect” for the work of the journalists covering the White House and spoke of the need for a “strong and independent press.”

“We might not see eye to eye here in this room all the time, which is OK,” Jean-Pierre said. “That give and take is so incredibly healthy, and it’s a part of our democracy.”

Jean-Pierre took the lectern on Monday after former White House press secretary Jen Psaki stepped down. Psaki’s last day was Friday, and rumors have swirled that she is set to join MSNBC as a host, though she has yet to speak publicly about her next steps.

Prior to serving as the White House press secretary, Jean-Pierre served as Biden’s principal deputy press secretary and had occasionally taken the lectern to fill in for Psaki.

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