You know their names: Jay Carney, Dee Dee Myers, Scott McClellan, Robert Gibbs, Mike McCurry, Joe Lockhart, Marlin Fitzwater, James Brady, Tony Snow.
They are White House press secretaries. You may not know this (I didn’t), but there have been only 35 official press secretaries. That’s an elite club. It was Herbert Hoover who picked George Akerson as the first official White House press secretary in 1929.
But let’s talk about that 35th one. Is Karine Jean-Pierre the worst press secretary ever to hold the post? She’s making a very strong case for the ignominious title.
Sure, there’s Sean Spicer. He was pretty terrible. And then there was Anthony Scaramucci, who flamed out in just days.
But in all my years of covering the White House and reading the news (my first job was as a delivery boy for The Washington Post in the early 1970s, when I used to sit on the sewer lid and read the latest stories about Watergate), I’ve never seen a press secretary quite this bad.
First, she usually appears with a “special guest,” some government official who takes questions. The reason for that: Less time for KJP to actually take questions. The briefings often take about an hour, so if the guest takes 30 minutes, Jean-Pierre only has to hold court for half an hour.
Second, she always carries a big book with all of the things she’s supposed to say — and she looks at it nonstop, even on the simplest of questions (“Does the sun rise in the east?” [Pause. Checks book. “Yes.”). The White House press team has put together talking points on nearly every conceivable topic that might come up, but I’ve never seen a press secretary go to the book as often as Jean-Pierre does.
And third, she doesn’t answer even the most basic questions.
There was a perfect example of this on Wednesday. Reporters have rightly been asking tons of questions about those classified documents found in President Joe Biden’s garage, but KJP is deflecting them all, referring them to the Department of Justice or the White House counsel’s office (and I know from covering the White House for years, when you call them, they say, “Hey, call the White House”).
So one reporter tried to ask a simple question, not about the documents but about whether the White House has taken action to make sure classified documents don’t show up in a pile next to the president’s Corvette.
“Just to be clear, my question is about procedures here at the White House and not about anything specific related to the DOJ investigation,” the reporter said. “So I’m just wondering how this episode has prompted a review of the process in which staffers handle classified information and how they are turned over to National Archives during a transition.”
“And to be clear,” Jean-Pierre said, “I’m going to refer you to my colleagues at the White House Counsel’s Office. They will be able to address that particular questions. I’m just not going to address something that is even related to an ongoing legal process.”
Q: “OK. Is President Biden satisfied with the current SOP of handling classified materials here and turning them over to National Archives?” the reporter asked.
Jean-Pierre: “Again, I will refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office. They are the — they’re the people who would be able to answer that question about classified information.”
Q: “So, just to be clear: From this point on, are you not going to be taking questions about the classified documents?”
Jean-Pierre: “I have been very clear over and over again we are going to be prudent here. We’re going to be consistent. This particular matter is being — is being looked at. There’s a legal process currently happening at the Department of Justice, and I’m going to refer you to the Department of Justice on any specifics to this particular case. And anything that has to deal with our — what we’re doing here, I would refer you to the White House Counsel’s Office.”
Other reporters noted that the DOJ and counsel’s office aren’t answering questions. White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) board member, Karen Travers of ABC News, told Jean-Pierre “there was a formal request from the WHCA to have [White House special counsel] Richard Sauber come to the briefing and take questions. … Would you commit to having the White House counsel come here and take questions?”
“That is something that I would refer you to the White House counsel’s office,” Jean-Pierre responded, noting that he had held one 45-minute conference call so far. “They have been engaged with all of you.”
Jacqui Heinrich of Fox News, another WHCA board member, noted that Jean-Pierre keeps referring reporters to places that offer no answers.
“Since so many of our questions have been referred to the DOJ and to the White House counsel’s office, I’m sure you can understand that we’re in sort of an information blackout,” Heinrich told Jean-Pierre. “DOJ refers us to the special counsel. They’re not holding any briefings. The White House counsel refers us to DOJ. So if you are not able to talk about this from the podium, would you invite a DOJ official to take our questions here?”
“No,” Jean-Pierre replied flatly.
Then Gray Television’s Jon Decker nailed KJP, noting that Biden was more than happy to talk about possible mishandling of records by his predecessor Donald Trump, whose Florida residence was raided by the FBI on August 8.
“In a September 18 interview with ‘60 Minutes,’” Decker noted, “[Biden] chided former President Trump for having in his possession classified documents. He called it ‘irresponsible.’ First of all, do you think it was proper for President Biden to comment on an ongoing DOJ investigation?”
Jean-Pierre: So, I’m going to say this, and going to keep it really short today: As it relates to this particular issue, as it relates to an ongoing legal matter, I’m going to refer you to the Department of Jus- — Department of Justice with the — that specific. As it relates to anything that you want to ask of us about this — this legal matter, I would refer you to the White House Counsel Office.
I’m going to leave it there. Not going to go into it further.
Q: I’m simply asking you to comment —
Jean-Pierre: I — and I just —
Q: — on the person that you work for —
Jean-Pierre: I just commented.
Q: His comments.
Jean-Pierre: I just commented.
Q: His comments.Well, it’s not really a comment.
Jean-Pierre: We’re moving on.
Q: It’s on the (inaudible).
Jean-Pierre: Go ahead.
Q: But I also wanted to ask you —
Jean-Pierre: Go ahead. Go ahead. No, go ahead. I already answered your question….
Q: You really didn’t.
Jean-Pierre: Well, I — I did.
Q: No, you didn’t. You gave a non-answer answer.
Jean-Pierre: Well, it’s your — it’s your opinion.
Q: You gave a non-answer answer.
Jean-Pierre: It’s your opinion. It’s your opinion. That is your opinion.
Q: It’s a fact.
Jean-Pierre: Go ahead. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Ugh. For this, Jean-Pierre gets paid $180,000 a year.
For the record, one of the better White House spokespeople, Joe Lockhart, who worked under former President Bill Clinton, once defined what it means to be a press secretary.
“Your main job is to advocate for the press within the government,” he told The Washington Post in 2020. “You have to make sure that the information going out to the American public and to the world is accurate and complete.”
Jean-Pierre does none of that. Fire her and find someone who does.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent for a national newspaper. He was also the a.m. editor of the Drudge Report for four years. Send tips to [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @josephcurl.