WILMINGTON, Delaware – President-elect Joe Biden has named seven women to his incoming White House Communications Team Sunday, including Karine Jean-Pierre, a partnered Black lesbian. Jean-Pierre will serve as Deputy White House press secretary under newly named White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Both women are Washington veterans having served during the administration of President Barack Obama. During the first Obama term, Jean-Pierre, 43, served as the regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs, while Psaki, 41, served as Obama’s White House Communications Director having served a stint previously as a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.
Speaking with the Advocate magazine in June of 2011 Jean-Pierre reflected on her tenure working for the Obama Administration as an openly LGBT staffer.
“What’s been wonderful is that I was not the only; I was one of many. President Obama didn’t hire LGBT staffers, he hired experienced individuals who happen to be LGBT,” she says. “Serving and working for President Obama where you can be openly gay has been an amazing honor. It felt incredible to be a part of an administration that prioritizes LGBT issues.”
Jean-Pierre and Psaki will work under Kate Bedingfield, the president-elect’s choice for the post of White House Communications Director.
Kate Bedingfield served as Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director for the Biden-Harris Campaign. She served as Communications Director for then Vice President Biden and as Associate Communications Director, Deputy Director of Media Affairs, and the Director of Response in the Obama-Biden White House.
“Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House. I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” President-elect Biden said in the Transition Team’s statement.
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, in an emailed media statement to the Blade, reflected on Biden’s choices for the new communication team;
“Today’s appointees are respected communicators with a breadth of experience and a strong commitment to serving the American people. President-elect Biden has a history of advocating on behalf of women in the U.S and around the world and today’s announcement is a continuation of that work, elevating this dynamic team of leaders to senior White House positions.”
“They embody Joe Biden’s commitment to a diverse administration where the voices of all Americans are represented. Today’s appointees are respected communicators with a breadth of experience and a strong commitment to serving the American people,” Klain said adding;
“President-elect Biden has a history of advocating on behalf of women in the U.S and around the world and today’s announcement is a continuation of that work, elevating this dynamic team of leaders to senior White House positions. They embody Joe Biden’s commitment to a diverse administration where the voices of all Americans are represented,”
The daughter of immigrant parents from Haiti, Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique and later raised in Queens, a borough of New York City. A longtime activist and communications specialist, she has a Master’s in Public Affairs conferred on her by New York’s Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, where she has taught as an adjunct professor and lecturer in international and public affairs since 2014.
In 2016 after her White House stint, Jean-Pierre served as a Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for Washington D.C. based MoveOn, a progressive non-profit public policy advocacy group and political action committee. Her primary portfolio at the non-profit was addressing President Trump’s rhetoric and platform of hate, violence, racism, immigrant-bashing, and women-bashing.
She also served as the deputy campaign manager for former Democratic Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s 2016 campaign run for the Oval Office.
Jean-Pierre received national recognition after a June 1, 2019 incident during the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum she was moderating in San Francisco, when 24 year-old Aidan Cook, a member of the animal right activist organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), rushed the stage grabbing the microphone out of then California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’s hand. The Senator was a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination at the time of the incident.
Jean-Pierre, who had jumped in between Cook and the Senator after he took the microphone kept the activist away from Harris until security arrived and removed him. At the time of the incident, Harris, like most other candidates in early stages of the primary process, didn’t have a U.S. Secret Service detail for protection.
Jean-Pierre joined the Biden-Harris campaign in May of 2020 and then accepted the position of Chief of Staff to Senator Harris in August. Speaking with NBC News journalist Tim Fitzsimons; “The sun was setting and the lights got much more prominent,” she said, referring to late June 2015, when she watched the White House lit in rainbow colors to mark the historic Supreme Court Obergefell v. Hodges ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. “People had signs and people were crying, and there was just so much joy.”
“I remember thinking how proud I was of this administration, that I had worked for that,” Jean-Pierre, said. “It really brought together, in that one moment, how important LGBTQ rights were and how much that administration fought for our rights.”
She told NBC News, if elected, Biden and Harris would “continue the work that Joe Biden and Obama did” by supporting LGBTQ rights and “continuing to put forth policy that protects the community.”
Now she is in a crucial role for the incoming Biden administration to see those hopes realized. On twitter Sunday after the announcement of her being chosen she said;
“I am profoundly honored to be the Principal Deputy Press Secretary for @JoeBiden. I am especially thrilled to work alongside @jrpsaki whose leadership and stellar instincts will ensure we are positioned to effectively communicate the Biden-Harris agenda to all Americans.”
Jean-Pierre, her partner, CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter will reside in Washington D.C.