Editorial | President-Elect Joe Biden’s New Senior Communications Team: Welcome Back, Competence and Integrity

President-elect Joe Biden’s appointments of his senior White House communications team is notable in (at least) two ways. First, it marks the return of integrity to the roles; the role that comes first to mind is that of White House press secretary. Second, it is the first senior communications team consisting entirely of women.

“Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House,” said president-elect Biden. “I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better.”

Leading the new White House communications team as White House press secretary will be Jen Psaki. Psaki held various posts in the Obama White House, including deputy White House communications director during president Obama’s first term, and White House communications director during the final two years of Obama’s second term. She was also the primary spokesperson for the State Department from 2013 to 2015.

As White House press secretary, Jen Psaki will assume the role currently held by Kayleigh McEnany, who wasted no time in her efforts to attack the media for drawing attention to the fact that Biden’s White House press team would be all female, saying that President Trump, the Vice President, and the First Lady also have senior press staff who are women.

“The completely DISCREDITED @washingtonpost once again reveals their blinding propagandist Fake News proclivities,” tweeted McEnany, in the inflammatory style influenced by the tweets of Donald Trump.

Many Americans will find it refreshing when Jen Psaki steps up to the lectern for the first time (and thereafter) as the public face of the Biden White House. After four years of witnessing exaggeration, outright lying, disrespect toward the press and the public, cowardice, and sycophancy by the Trump administration’s various press secretaries, the country is ready to see standing before them in that role an adult who values truth.

Minyon Moore, a member of the Biden-Harris transition advisory board, says of Psaki, “When she (Psaki) steps to that mic, she brings not only a sense of gravitas, but fact, transparency and honesty, and even a sense of comfort.”

Jen Psaki has shown herself to be forthright and honest in her dealings with the public, and in how she has represented former president Obama. We can expect that she won’t use false and absurd claims to cover for the president’s false and absurd claims.

We should not look for her, for example, to exaggerate the size of the crowd at Joe Biden’s inauguration, as Trump’s first press secretary, Sean Spicer, did regarding Trump’s very small inauguration crowd (“The largest ever to witness an inauguration— period.”). Or, to make up cryptic stories to explain away the unexplainable, as Spicer did when the president tweeted out “covfefe,” attempting to reassure reporters that “the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant.” (Who knows how that fueled QAnon’s “cabal” conspiracy theory?) Or intentionally mislead the public about a respected public servant, as Sarah Huckabee Sanders did when she said that “countless members” of the FBI had contacted her to complain about (former) FBI director James Comey (she later said that her claims were “a slip of the tongue”).

We can be reasonably certain that, unlike the press secretaries of the Trump administration, Jen Psaki won’t use gaslighting as a tool for communication. We can expect, for example, that she won’t repeatedly lie without batting an eye, or deny obvious facts, as, most recently, Kayleigh McEnany is wont to do, such as when she stated that “the president never downplayed the virus,” even though Trump’s downplaying of the coronavirus pandemic is well documented. It’s safe to assume that Jen Psaki won’t use tweets and interviews on news shows to push president-elect Biden’s falsehoods and conspiracy theories; (it’s also safe to assume that Biden does not deal in conspiracy theories or compulsive lying).

Judging from her reputation and past performance, we can expect that as White House press secretary, Jen Psaki won’t cower from truth, or from challenging or difficult questions. She is not likely, for example, to hide in the bushes, as Sean Spicer did in order to avoid facing questions about the firing of former FBI director James Comey. Nor do we expect that Psaki will hide from the press, as Stephanie Grisham, who went for more than a year without holding a single White House press briefing, did. (Sarah Sanders comes in second for the amount of time without holding a press briefing, setting three records for the most days between press briefings, prior to Grisham’s tenure.)

Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki does not have the reputation of disrespecting the press or the public, unlike her Trumpian predecessors. We can be confident, for example, that she won’t attack the media during press conferences, or refuse to say, when challenged, that the press is not in fact the enemy of the people, as her boss maintains it is.

And though Jen Psaki has expressed her admiration and respect for Joe Biden, we can expect that she won’t be a Biden sycophant. First, she has been successful on her own merits, and second, she will not be serving a president who expects complete fealty and threatens repercussions to those who cross him.

Each woman appointed to the Biden-Harris senior communications team, in fact, is known for accomplishment, experience, competence, and integrity.

    • Kate Bedingfield, who was Vice President Biden’s communications director, and served on several successful Democratic campaigns, will be communications director for the Biden White House.
    • Ashley Etienne will serve Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as communications director for the Vice President.
    • Karine Jean-Pierre, whose past roles include regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama-Biden administration, and chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org, has been appointed as principal deputy press secretary.
    • Symone Sanders, who was a senior advisor on the Biden-Harris campaign, and is the former chair of the Coalition of Juvenile Justice Emerging Leaders Committee and former member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice, will serve as senior adviser and chief spokesperson for the Vice President.
    • Pili Tobar, who was communications director for coalitions on the Biden-Harris campaign, former deputy director for America’s Voice, former national director of Hispanic media and western regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, among other posts, will serve as deputy White House communications director.

America looks forward to the next four years with Joe Biden as president for many reasons, not the least of which is great optimism that the White House communications team will bring back not only high competence, but also transparency, respect for the press and for the public, and, what we’ve perhaps missed the most: integrity.

President-elect Joe Biden announces all-female communications team |
Reuters [2020-11-30]

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Memorable Moments Defending President Trump | The New York Times [2018-08-08]

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