White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed thousands of Black and Hispanic journalists in Las Vegas on Saturday during the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).
Jean-Pierre spoke with NABJ President Dorothy Tucker and NAHJ President Nora López about the Biden administration and her role as the first Black and openly LGBTQ+ person to hold the position. Jean-Pierre, a Haitian American, is also the first Caribbean person to hold this position.
“It is not lost on me what this role means to so many young people out there,” Jean- Pierre said. “It is important to have representation. It is important to have people to look like me and people to look like all of you, but it’s also important to do the action and also to deliver.”
Jean-Pierre, 44, served in senior communication and political roles in the Biden administration, the Biden campaign, and to then-Vice President Biden in the Obama administration before being named White House press secretary in May. Prior to joining the campaign, she worked as MoveOn.org’s chief public affairs officer and as an NBC and MSNBC political analyst.
During the hour-long event, Jean-Pierre touched on several topics, including the Biden administration’s diversity and the detainment of WNBA star Britney Griner in Russia. She also spoke about the success of major domestic policies like the American Rescue Plan, which was passed to help the United States recover from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package funds vaccines, schools, small businesses, and anti-poverty programs like an expanded child tax credit.
“Think about the American rescue planning, think about the bipartisan infrastructure deal that is now law, those things, those big pieces of legislation, did not leave the Black community behind and did not leave the Latino community or behind or any other community, it made sure that we brought everybody with us,” Jean-Pierre said.
Regarding other pressing matters, Jean-Pierre addressed how the administration will push for passage of the assault weapons ban in the Senate. She said, “It’s devastating to see, it’s heartbreaking to see. Our children should be able to go to school and not worry about dying… We should be able to go to the supermarket and not worry about dying,” she said. “So if you think about what we have this past year, and what we have been able to accomplish, there’s that bipartisan gun reform legislation that is now law that the President signed a couple of weeks ago it is a first step.”
The history-making press secretary also spoke about the importance of journalism to democracy and the recent challenges faced regarding public trust. She emphasized the Biden administration’s efforts to work with journalists, not attack them or put them in “harm’s way.”
“We will not be attacking the media. We will not be calling on people to attack the media or to mistreat the media,” Jean-Pierre said. “We understand that it is going to be a give and take relationship…but it is a working relationship and a respectful relationship.”
Jean-Pierre’s role as White House press secretary and chief spokesperson of President Joe Biden is an important one. She is often the first official within the executive branch that the media and the public communicate with daily via press briefings.
Reflecting on her role as press secretary and the many historic firsts she represents as a Black, gay and immigrant woman in the position, Jean-Pierre said that it goes beyond her and that she looks at the bigger picture.
“What’s important, I think, is that younger people who are behind me can look at me and say, I can dream big, not just dream, but dream big.”