Standing in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room wearing the color yellow symbolizing confidence and warmth, while sporting a close cropped afro, Karine Jean-Pierre, the Biden Administration’s Principal Deputy Press Secretary, appeared as the first Black woman to field reporter’s questions in three decades on Wednesday.
Jean-Pierre follows in the footsteps of Judy Smith, who served under former President George H.W. Bush. Smith made history as the first Black to hold the position when she took the podium in 1991. The moment on Wednesday doubled in historic value as Jean-Pierre is also the first openly gay spokesperson.
On Jean-Pierre’s agenda were more history markers, the confirmation of Kristen Clarke as the first Black woman to lead the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure’s confirmation to became the first Black person lead Medicare and Medicaid Services. Jean-Pierre also discussed Biden’s plans to visit Tulsa, Oklahoma to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Black Wall Street Massacre, Biden’s $213B infrastructure plan and a recent inquiry into COVID-19’s origins.
“It’s a real honor just to be standing here today,” Jean-Pierre said when asked about the brevity of the moment. “I appreciate the historic nature, I really do. But I believe being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building, is not about one person. It’s about what we do on behalf of the American people.”
Other Black journalists and Jean-Pierre’s supporters tweeted their support.
After the historic briefing Jean-Pierre appeared on MSNBC with Joy Reid to discuss her thoughts and to help the public understand Biden’s agenda.
“I stand on so many shoulders. It’s not just me. There are so many people that has come before me,” she began after Reid congratulated her.
Jean-Pierre revealed that Smith surprised her by showing up at the press briefing. “It was just amazing to meet her for the first time and for her to support,” she said.
“There’s something about this moment that we’re in,” she continued when asked about the Clarke confirmation. “The diversity, the movement of Black women and where we are in different positions. And this is an administration that is the most diverse administration ever. And that is because this is a promise that the president made on the campaign, a promise that the president kept, clearly now in the administration.”
Jean-Pierre said it was an “honor” to brief the journalists on Clarke’s appointment to the DOJ, and to work alongside the first Black woman Vice President, Kamala Harris.
“This is a moment to be proud of in this country, and this is a place, a White House, this Biden-Harris administration that I couldn’t be prouder to be part of,” Jean-Pierre said.
Reid used the moment to discuss the road ahead and some of the tougher issues that the Biden-Harris faces, first being the Senate’s failure in passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act prior to Floyd’s one-year death anniversary.
“He wanted to continue to show and tell them that he’s 100 percent behind in getting this done. He’s pleased to see it’s a bi-partisan effort,” she said and vowed that the president will continue to work with the bill’s sponsors, Sens. Cory Booker, Tim Scott and Rep. Karen Bass, in presenting legislation that can be passed through the Senate.
Reid pressed Jean-Pierre about Biden’s agenda asking if the Biden-Harris administration seemed too hopeful that their agenda can be pushed through while Republicans focus on backing legislation which restricts voting rights and Democrats zone in on eliminating the filibuster.
“One of the things that he understands is that it’s going to take time to bring everyone together but we have to make the effort,” she said. “The American people want to see some bi-partisanship and so this is what we’re trying to do,” she continued in reference to Biden’s proposals regarding infrastructure, the economy and job creation.
You can read the full transcript of Jean-Pierre’s White House briefing here.