WASHINGTON (JTA) — US President Joe Biden named as his next press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, a former official of the activist MoveOn group who endorsed its call on Democratic presidential candidates to boycott the annual AIPAC conference.
Jean-Pierre will be the first Black woman and the first openly LGBTQ person in the job and succeeds Jen Psaki, who has reportedly accepted an offer from MSNBC as a commentator, as the lead voice for the Biden administration with the media. She has been principal deputy press secretary after starting in the Biden administration as a senior adviser to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Jean-Pierre has drawn fire from some in the pro-Israel community for a 2019 op-ed in which she endorsed pressure by MoveOn on Democratic Party presidential candidates to boycott the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
“When it comes down to it, AIPAC’s policies are not progressive policies. AIPAC’s values are not progressive values,” Pierre wrote in the 2019 piece, saying that the group’s failure to forcefully call out the Trump administration’s bigotry disqualified it as a venue for Democrats.
AIPAC, historically non-partisan, has in the last decade drifted apart from progressives on Israel policy. Most recently, it launched a PAC to directly support pro-Israel candidates for the first time; the PAC has so far given to more Republicans than to Democrats and has drawn criticism for giving to Republicans who voted not to affirm Biden’s election. It also is supporting the House Democrats’ leadership and about half of the party’s progressive caucus.
In April 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jean-Pierre was one of countless people to share a viral photo of Jewish and Muslim paramedic partners praying together in Israel. “Thank you both for your selflessness, and for this inspiring show of humanity,” she tweeted.
“Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this administration,” Biden said Thursday in a statement.
Psaki, who leaves the White House on May 13, praised her successor as a “partner in truth,” noting the significance of the history-making appointment.
“Representation matters and she is going to give a voice to so many and show so many what is truly possible when you work hard and dream big,” Psaki said.
Taking the lectern briefly while Psaki briefed the press Thursday, Jean-Pierre said she was “still processing” the significance of her hire, calling it “an honor 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.”
AP contributed to this report