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New White House press secretary honours trailblazers as she becomes first gay, Black woman in post

Mishti Ali May 17, 2022
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Karine Jean-Pierre

Karine Jean-Pierre gives her first White House briefing as press secretary. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Karine Jean-Pierre paid tribute to the “barrier-breaking people” who came before her in her first media briefing as the new White House press secretary.

Taking to the podium on Monday (16 May), Jean-Pierre prefaced the briefing with an acknowledgement of her trailblazing appointment.

“I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts. I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman, the first of all three of those to hold this position,” she said.

“I would not be here today if it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me. I stand on their shoulders. If it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me, I would not be here.

“But I benefit from their sacrifices. I have learned from their excellence, and I am forever grateful to them. Representation does matter.”

 

She also noted that the current administration under Biden is the most diverse in US history.

Much of Karine Jean-Pierre’s first briefing was dedicated to the white supremacist mass shooting in Buffalo, New York which left 10 kills and three injured. Ten of the victims were Black.

It’s been suggested that the shooter was inspired by the “Great Replacement Theory”, previously espoused by Tucker Carlson, which alleges that white voters are being replaced with “more obedient” non-white immigrants.

ABC News journalist Cecilia Vega asked whether the White House believes “these views are being amplified by Tucker Carlson?”, however Jean-Pierre refused to point fingers.

Karine Jean-Pierre was born in Martinique to Haitian parents. A graduate of Columbia University, she has often credited growing up in an immigrant household in New York with teaching her to work hard, with this featuring in her 2019 book Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America. 

Asked what she wanted to tell young Americans after being announced as the new White House press secretary, Jean-Pierre said: “If you work very hard for a goal, it will happen. Yes, you will suffer hard knocks, you will go through hard times, and it won’t always be easy, but the reward will be incredible, especially if you stay true to who you are.”

Prior to her appointment as press secretary, she served as principal deputy press secretary and deputy assistant to the president since Joe Biden entered office in 2021. She has also worked in public affairs for MoveOn.org and was a political analyst for NBC and MSNBC.

 

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