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Lesbian White House official Karine Jean-Pierre becomes first Black woman to host press briefing in 30 years

Patrick Kelleher April 4, 2021
Karine Jean-Pierre

Karine Jean-Pierre. (Gary Gershoff/Getty)

Lesbian White House official Karine Jean-Pierre has become the first Black woman to host a press briefing in 30 years.

Jean-Pierre, deputy press secretary to Jen Psaki in the Biden administration, also became the first queer Black woman to ever host a White House press briefing in the history-making moment.

Karine Jean-Pierre, who previously served as chief of staff to Kamala Harris during the presidential race, delivered a 16-minute long briefing on the Air Force One on 31 March.

During the briefing, Jean-Pierre addressed assembled reporters about Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan and fielded questions on infrastructure, the Derek Chauvin trial, and taxation plans.

Jean-Pierre delivered another briefing on 19 March, according to Yahoo! News White House correspondent Hunter Walker.

White House official Karine Jean-Pierre makes ‘history’ with press briefing

Walker tweeted a photo of Jean-Pierre giving her 31 March press briefing, noting that she had become “the first Black woman to hold a White House press briefing in about 30 years”. He said he took the photo because he had the sense that he was “witnessing history”.

Judy Smith became the first Black woman to deliver a White House press briefing in 1991 when she served as a special assistant in George H.W. Bush’s administration.

“I didn’t think about it at the time… what I thought about at the time was that going to work in the White House was… just such an incredible opportunity,” Smith told Yahoo! News in December 2020.

“It was a dream come true. I didn’t understand the significance of what that was, getting up briefing at that moment, seeing a Black woman behind the podium, speaking on behalf of the president to the American public.”

Joe Biden named Karine Jean-Pierre as his deputy White House press secretary in November 2020, making her the first out lesbian and first Black woman to hold the key media-facing role.

Jean-Pierre is one of four women of colour filling out the seven top communications posts in the White House. The communications team is also all-female.

Speaking after her historic appointment, Jean-Pierre said she was “profoundly honoured” to serve in Biden’s administration.

“I’m so proud that our communications team for the Biden-Harris administration is a roster filled [with] rockstar women,” she wrote on Twitter at the time.

“All will bring dignity, professionalism and expertise to their respective roles!”

Prior to her work on the Biden-Harris campaign, Jean-Pierre worked on presidential campaigns for John Edwards, Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama. Born in Martinique to Haitian immigrants, Jean-Pierre grew up in New York City.

“As a Black gay immigrant who comes from a working-class family, I know that America hasn’t always worked for everyone, and I know that America still doesn’t work for everyone,” she told Out magazine.

“The truth of the matter is we have a long way to go. But that’s what I’m working toward: mobilising people around this shared vision of what an America that works for everyone could look like – and then making it happen.”

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