Taking the lectern briefly while Psaki briefed the press on Thursday Washington-time, Jean-Pierre said she was “still processing” the significance of her hire, calling it “an honour and privilege to be behind this podium.”
“This is a historic moment, and it’s not lost on me,” she said. “It’s a very emotional day.”
Psaki said Biden offered the job to Jean-Pierre on Thursday in the Oval Office.
White House staffers were gathered after the offer and greeted Jean-Pierre with applause, an official said. Two “warm bottles” of champagne were procured for a toast in White House paper cups, the official added, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal gathering.
Jean-Pierre had occasionally taken the lectern in the press briefing room instead of Psaki and more frequently held off-camera “gaggles” with reporters when Biden was travelling on Air Force One. She travelled with Biden to Europe last fall and in March instead of Psaki, who had tested positive for COVID-19 before both trips.
Before joining the Biden presidential campaign, Jean-Pierre was the chief public affairs officer of the progressive mobilisation group MoveOn.org and a former political analyst for NBC and MSNBC.
She also worked in political affairs in the Obama White House and on his reelection campaign.
The press secretary is responsible for holding daily briefings with the news media and leading a department of more than a dozen staffers who help address queries from the press.
When she took the job, Psaki, who has two young children, said publicly she aimed to remain in the job for about a year.
She is expected to join MSNBC later this year. She was expected to remain as the public face of the administration until her departure next Friday.
Biden said Psaki “has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House briefing room.”
“I want to say thank you to Jen for raising the bar, communicating directly and truthfully to the American people, and keeping her sense of humour while doing so,” Biden said. “I thank Jen for her service to the country, and wish her the very best as she moves forward.”
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