- White House press secretary Jen Psaki has sought to lower the temperature in the briefing room.
- Psaki knows that the job comes with tough questioning and strives for fact-based answers.
- “People should know that I’m not gonna be a pushover up there,” she told The Daily Beast.
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While the relationship between the White House press corps and presidential administrations is always somewhat adversarial, former President Donald Trump’s relationship with the media was famous for its perpetual toxicity.
Since her debut almost three weeks ago, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has sought to lower the temperature and focus on policy.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Psaki looked back at her first press conference, where she spoke to reporters in a collegial manner, speaking of “the role of a free and independent press in our democracy.”
This statement was a stark contrast to the rough-and-tumble personalities of former press secretaries like Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kayleigh McEnany.
Psaki said she knows that the job comes with tough questioning and relishes the focus on facts.
“That has certainly been my perspective throughout my career, and my goal was to return to accuracy and transparency from the podium,” Psaki said. “But also [to acknowledge that] there would be moments of disagreement, and that was part of democracy, right?”
She added: “Fact sheets are back. We love facts sheets here. Making policy hip again is our goal.”
Psaki and the White House communications team are already receiving largely positive reviews from the press corps, many of whom had gotten accustomed to the Trump administration’s spotty briefings and email responses.
“It’s great to have a return to briefings and a useful exchange for reporters to get their questions answered,” Associated Press White House reporter Zeke Miller told The Daily Beast. “But it’s not just about the exchange of information; it’s about the potent symbol that that forum sends around the world, but also in Washington – that the government is not above taking questions from journalists. It’s an important principle that’s good to see.”
However, Psaki’s interaction with Politico’s Anita Kumar this past week shows that the core dynamic of the press secretary’s role in pushing back has not gone away.
Psaki, who was not pleased with a question presented about the relationship between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, chided the White House correspondent.
“I don’t appreciate the, like, putting words in my mouth,” Psaki said to Kumar, who was reportedly startled by the encounter.
“People should know that I’m not gonna be a pushover up there,” Psaki told The Daily Beast. “And I’m not going to allow people to put words in my mouth or misconstrue what I said. It’s important to be clear and concrete and very specific, because you’re still speaking on behalf of the government.”