After Making History As Second Black Woman To Lead WH Press Briefing, Karine Jean-Pierre Poses With Judy Smith, First Black Woman To Hold The Position
The only other Black woman to lead a White House press briefing, Judy Smith, inspired the character of Olivia Pope from the popular show "Scandal."
May 26, 2021 at 7:52 pm
After making history as the first Black woman in 30 years to lead a White House press briefing, Karine Jean-Pierre stood beside Judy Smith, the first Black woman to hold the position, for a momentous picture.
Smith, former deputy press secretary for President George H.W. Bush, was the only Black woman to lead a press briefing on behalf of the president when she took office in 1991. Smith’s legacy would go on to inspire the character of Olivia Pope on the popular TV drama Scandal.
After the press briefing, the chief of staff to the press office and special assistant to the press secretary, Amanda Finney, shared a photo on Twitter of Smith and Jean-Pierre together behind the podium.
"The First. The Second… definitely not the last…," she wrote.
— Amanda Finney (@FinneyAmanda46) May 26, 2021
The principal deputy press secretary congratulated Kristen Clarke on being confirmed as the first woman and first woman of color to lead the civil rights division of the Justice Department. She also took time to show her gratitude to Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, who was recently named the first Black person to head the centers for Medicaid/Medicare services.
“The president was proud to nominate Kristen and Chiquita for these positions, thanks the Senate for their bipartisan confirmation and is honored to have them serve in these key leadership positions,” Jean-Pierre said.
The rising political professional used her time at the podium to bring attention to the diversity of White House leadership and praised the president for being a champion of inclusion.
"I believe that 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," Jean-Pierre said. "Clearly the president believes that representation matters, and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity, and it's another reason why I think we're all so proud that this is the most diverse administration in history."
She also spoke about the government’s plan to reinvigorate the housing market and its strategy to help alleviate some of the burdens people are facing as a result of the coronavirus.
“President Biden believes affordable, safe housing is the foundation upon which families build their lives. And he knows stable housing will remain out of reach for tens of millions of Americans even after COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis come to an end. Across the country, three is a 300,000 unit gap in annual housing supply, 11 million families pay more than half their income in rent … and thousands of working families are displaced every year as a result of extreme weather fueled by climate change,” she said.
“Investing in housing is an essential part of President Biden’s strategy to grow strong, healthy communities in every zip code,” the 43-year-old added.
With her success conducting small media chats with the traveling press on Air Force One, people close to Jean-Pierre say that she is ready to take more prominence in the Biden Administration.
"She has been through all the information gathering, all discussions they have before the briefing. She will be well-prepped on the information, and now she's ready to do a briefing," Martha Joynt Kumar, an academic and author who has been studying White House briefings since 1975, said.
On Twitter, Psaki called Jean-Pierre her "partner in truth" and said her turn at the podium is an important day for the press office and marks a historical change for the federal government.
"[Jean-Pierre] is doing her first full briefing from the podium today making history in her own right," Psaki wrote. "But doing her real justice means also recognizing her talent, her brilliance and her wonderful spirit."
On March 31, Jean-Pierre became the first queer Black woman to ever host a White House press briefing, according to British outlet Pink News. During the 16-minute long briefing, she addressed the media regarding President Biden’s American Jobs Plan and took questions about other pressing topics like the Derek Chauvin trial.
Prior to her work in the White House, the former Columbia University lecturer in international and public affairs served as the chief of staff to Vice President Kamala Harris during the 2020 campaign. Last November, Jean-Pierre was identified by Out Magazine as "the first Black person and first out lesbian to hold that position for a vice-presidential nominee."
"As a Black gay immigrant who comes from a working-class family, I know that America hasn't always worked for everyone," Jean-Pierre, who grew up in New York to parents who were Haitian immigrants, said. "And I know that America still doesn't work for everyone. The truth of the matter is we have a long way to go. But that's what I'm working toward: mobilizing people around this shared vision of what an America that works for everyone could look like — and then making it happen."
She also previously worked under the Obama Administration and has been featured on NBC News as a political analyst, according to CBS News.