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White House’s Karine Jean-Pierre to make history at press briefing

Washington — White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will make history when she steps behind the podium in the James S. Brady Briefing Room on Wednesday, becoming just the second African-American woman to lead a White House press briefing.

Judy Smith, a deputy press secretary for President George H.W. Bush and the inspiration for Olivia Pope on “Scandal,” was the first Black woman to do so, when she held a briefing in 1991.

Jean-Pierre, who is President Biden’s No. 2 press aide under press secretary Jen Psaki, has done five off-camera “gaggles” with press and smaller media availabilities with the traveling press on Air Force One, but she has not yet held an on-camera briefing at the White House briefing room.

“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,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, an academic and author who has been monitoring White House briefings since 1975.

Karine Jean-Pierre, White House deputy press secretary, listens during a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on Monday, February 8, 2021.

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

This is not the first time Jean-Pierre has marked a historic milestone during her career. Prior to the Biden White House, Jean-Pierre served as chief of staff to Vice President Kamala Harris during the 2020 campaign. In a November 2020 profile, Out Magazine wrote that she was “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 was born on the French island territory of Martinique to Haitian immigrants and grew up in New York, told the magazine. “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.”

Jean-Pierre previously worked in the Obama White House and as a national spokesperson for the liberal group MoveOn.org. She has also been an NBC News political analyst.

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