Metro Weekly

Karine Jean-Pierre, lesbian political trailblazer, on shortlist for White House press secretary

Jean-Pierre has been called a "superstar" by former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett

Karine Jean-Pierre – Photo: Rhododendrites, via Wikimedia

Karine Jean-Pierre, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ chief of staff, is reportedly a top candidate to become the White House press secretary. If tapped for the job, she would be the first out lesbian and the first Black woman press secretary in history.

NBC White House correspondent Geoff Bennett revealed via Twitter that Jean-Pierre was on the shortlist for press secretary, along with another Black woman, Symone Sanders, a senior advisor to the Biden campaign.

Kate Bedingfield, the Biden-Harris campaign’s communications director, is likely to serve as White House communications director, but has also been considered for the press secretary role, according to Bennett.

“No final decisions have been made, officials stress, as the emerging West Wing leadership also considers how to structure the communications office in a rapidly-changing media environment,” the NBC reporter tweeted.

“Officials are also considering external candidates for press secretary,” Bennett added in a follow-up tweet. “One idea under discussion would be a hybrid role that includes a policy focus while also serving as one of the administration’s chief public faces, perhaps separate from the traditional press secretary role.”

Born in Martinique to Haitian immigrant parents and raised in Queens, N.Y., Jean-Pierre is fluent in three languages: French, English, and Haitian Kreyol.  She holds a Master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, where she has also served as a lecturer.

A political campaign organizer, activist, and political commentator, she previously served as the southeast regional political director for the John Edwards presidential campaign and the Obama for America campaign before serving as regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs.

A self-described progressive, Jean-Pierre previously served as the national spokeswoman for the left-wing website MoveOn.org and as a political analyst on NBC News and MSNBC.

Earlier this year, she was named Harris’ chief of staff after the California senator was tapped to be Joe Biden’s running mate. Her selection drew praise from Valerie Jarrett, an adviser and confidante of former President Barack Obama, who called her a “superstar” who share’s Biden’s values of equality, fairness, and justice.

“She will be able to communicate his agenda in an authentic way that I think will resonate importantly with African American women, but also with the entire country,” Jarrett told The 19th, a nonprofit outlet covering politics from a female perspective.

See also: President-elect Biden appoints trans veteran Shawn Skelly to transition team

The prospect of either Jean-Pierre or Sanders as the next press secretary drew approval from Aimee Allison, president of She The People, an organization dedicated to increasing the political power of women of color, who told Newsweek that the selection of either would be a “broad acknowledgement that Black women had a broad and central role in delivering the White House and we’re the trusted voices.”

Alicia Garza, a queer woman who is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter and principal at Black Futures Lab, also welcomed the idea of a Black woman who reflects the values of the country as press secretary.

“After the last four years of misinformation and disinformation, I would be relieved to see someone like Karine behind that podium, someone who has a track record of being honest and direct,” Garza said.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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