OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has not had the simplest start to her job.
It has been a tough two months for her, as she marks her anniversary as White House press secretary, and some reporters are speaking about the job she has done, Fox News reported.
Her predecessor Jen Psaki received cable news offers and widespread praise from the left-leaning press corps, with one White House scribe even anonymously confessing they were afraid to have a verbal scuffle with Psaki for fear of looking like an “a–hole.”
It hasn’t been as sunny for Jean-Pierre, with Politico’s West Wing Playbook already declaring last month she’d suffered “unforced stumbles” and private “grumbles” from reporters, owing to her tendency to stick to the binder and deliver talking points rather than engage in extemporaneous back-and-forths with the press.
“If your M.O. is going to be reading prepared answers, you should have a lot of prepared answers so that you’re not just deferring to reporters constantly,” one White House reporter said to Fox News.
“She is poorly received as she isn’t taking time to answer questions or banter with reporters on the issues of the day,” another said. “A press secretary has to share some information, kind of a give and take, but she just doesn’t appear willing to do that yet… Too often, she is telling reporters that she ‘has nothing from the podium’ to say, which is a waste of everyone’s time.”
One of the things she was criticized for was appearing to not be informed of the happenings of the president and the White House.
In one instance she appeared to be unaware that President Joe Biden had close contact with COVID-positive Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
“They were together on Memorial Day,” a reporter said.
“Oh, were they?” she responded. “OK.”
Even when being interviewed by CNN host Don lemon she appeared to be astonished when he asked about the president’s stamina.
CNN’s Don Lemon flat-out asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre if President Joe Biden has the “stamina, physically and mentally” to run for a second term in 2024.
Currently, Biden is 79 years old. He would be 82 years old on Inauguration Day 2025 if he were to run again and win.
“Don! You’re asking me this question! Oh my gosh, he’s the president of the United States! You know, he — I can’t even keep up with him,” Jean-Pierre declared. “We just got back from New Mexico. We just got back from California. Uh, that is — I, I, that is — that is not a question that we should be even asking. Just look at the work that he does. Just look at how he’s delivering for the American public.”
DON LEMON: "Does the president has the stamina, physically and mentally, do you think to continue on even after 2024?"
KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: "That is not a question that we should be even asking" pic.twitter.com/dUfQil9qKp
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 14, 2022
“The obvious frustration is that Karine is by the book, literally by the book,” the first White House reporter said to Fox News. “And that means that unless your question has some pre-prepared response in that book, you’re probably not going to get anything new out of her. I’m not sure if that’s a deliberate strategy by this administration to focus the conversation or limit it, but unless she is prepared and has a prepared response, you’re not going to get much out of her. At this point, on some of the more hot button topics, I mean, we’re always parsing answers, but now we’re parsing non-answers as well.”
“I don’t want to give anyone advice, but I think that if she wasn’t prepared to do a give-and-take on any of these issues, you know, there’s a way for her to speed up and learn about all of these issues so that she can, you know, mix it up with reporters. I’m not certain if that’s something that the White House wants right now, though, because remember, Jen Psaki’s parting advice to Karine was ‘don’t worry too much about winning the argument in the room’,” the reporter said.
Today News Africa correspondent Simon Ateba said that the press secretary has improved.
“At the beginning, following her first press briefing, several reporters told me that ‘this would be a disaster,'” he said. They accused her of reading too much from her notes, of being caught off guard all the time, and of trying to spin all the time rather than answering questions… She was also accused of being too afraid to call on reporters from across the room, people like me, or others, for instance, from the New York Post, the Washington Times, Al-Jazeera… But between then and now, several reporters have also told me that she has gained confidence, is reading less, and has tried to call on people from across the room, including me, twice.”
“Behind the scenes, I would say that to be fair to her she replies emails promptly when you send it, at least mine, but unlike Jen Psaki who used to meet reporters in her office for quick questions, she rarely does that with those who are not from the mainstream media,” he said.
“It’s almost as if he’s the second press secretary, he shows up all the time, takes questions that she should answer, and steals the shine and the show from her. It’s a strange situation,” he said.