WASHINGTON – After four years of President Donald Trump serving as his own chief spokesperson and frequently peddling false information and conspiracy theories in the process, successor Joe Biden is pledging to return to a more traditional approach to communicating with Americans.
Much of that work will fall to Jen Psaki, Biden's pick for White House press secretary. She's a veteran communications staffer who has worked on many top Democratic campaigns and held leading roles under President Barack Obama, including deputy press secretary and White House communications director, as well as spokesperson for the State Department.
She'll assume the role at a critical time, facing a public that's skeptical of messages from institutions and a press corps whose relationship with the White House has been highly strained during the Trump era. Psaki, who turned 42 on Tuesday, is well-known in Washington, but she's not a household name.
“This job becomes one of the most recognizable people representing both the administration and the government writ large,” said Robert Gibbs, a former Obama press secretary. “She’ll be recognized when she travels overseas. She’ll be recognized when she goes to the grocery store.”
Trump went through four press secretaries and often preferred to engage directly with the electorate, tweeting at all hours or holding his own press briefings — especially at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Both the president and his media team were frequently at odds with White House reporters while routinely spreading falsehoods.
One of Trump's press secretaries, Stephanie Grisham, never held a single briefing during her tenure. His most recent choice, Kayleigh McEnany, has used her sporadic briefings to scold reporters on their choice of questions, lecture them about the content of their stories, and reinforce baseless claims by the president.
Biden has promised to restore daily press briefings, and Psaki says she views the core of her new job as seeking to rebuild trust in government, especially during the pandemic.