White House reporters assess Karine Jean-Pierre as she grows into job: She's 'literally by the book' – Fox News

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‘Fox & Friends’ co-hosts discuss the Biden administration’s position on the economy ahead of the June jobs report.
As White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre marks two months at the podium, some of the reporters she interacts with each day offered their assessments of her performance in the notoriously difficult, high-profile job.
Her predecessor Jen Psaki received cable news offers and widespread praise from the left-leaning press corps, with one White House scribe even anonymously confessing they were afraid to have a verbal scuffle with Psaki for fear of looking like an “a–hole.” 
It hasn’t been as sunny for Jean-Pierre, with Politico’s West Wing Playbook already declaring last month she’d suffered “unforced stumbles” and private “grumbles” from reporters, owing to her tendency to stick to the binder and deliver talking points rather than engage in extemporaneous back-and-forths with the press. 
“If your M.O. is going to be reading prepared answers, you should have a lot of prepared answers so that you’re not just deferring to reporters constantly,” a current White House reporter told Fox News Digital.
U.S. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
“She is poorly received as she isn’t taking time to answer questions or banter with reporters on the issues of the day,” another White House reporter said. “A press secretary has to share some information, kind of a give and take, but she just doesn’t appear willing to do that yet… Too often, she is telling reporters that she ‘has nothing from the podium’ to say, which is a waste of everyone’s time.”
The reporter said she is getting better at working around the room to call on more reporters but tends to ignore the more “combative” ones.
Jean-Pierre also has taken heat for appearing uninformed at times, a cardinal sin for a press secretary, such as when she didn’t recall a part of a May speech President Biden had recently given referencing his application to the Naval Academy. On several occasions, she’s confessed lack of knowledge of a specific, prominent news story when asked for comment. Another time, on June 1, she didn’t know that President Biden had a recent close contact with COVID-positive Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
“They were together on Memorial Day,” a Daily Mail reporter noted.
“Oh, were they?” she replied. “OK.”
“There are pictures of them,” the reporter added.
“OK, great. Well, thank you for that reminder,” Jean-Pierre said.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre introduces actor Matthew McConaughey, a native of Uvalde, Texas as well as a father and a gun owner, to speak to reporters about mass shootings in the United States during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., June 7, 2022.  (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
On June 16, she repeatedly refused to give specifics on Biden’s COVID testing schedule, vexing reporters, and she also drew criticism last week for saying the country had never been stronger economically, in spite of record inflation that remains the top thorn in her boss’ side. When asked to comment last week on a 2018 voicemail President Biden left for his son Hunter concerning his business dealings, she pivoted to saying she wouldn’t comment on “alleged materials from the laptop.”
Even in seemingly friendlier formats, Jean-Pierre has had some tough moments, such as when she made headlines with her astonished reaction to Don Lemon when the CNN host asked about Biden’s stamina ahead of 2024, an increasingly significant issue for Democrats.
“Don, you’re asking me this question! Oh my gosh!” she said. “He’s the President of the United States… That is not a question that we should be even asking. Just look at the work he does. And look how he’s delivering for the American public.”
Like Psaki, and unlike her predecessors in the Trump administration, Jean-Pierre has consistently held public, weekday briefings. But complaints with some reporters who spoke to Fox News Digital continue to be that the briefing doesn’t provide much information under her tenure.
“The obvious frustration is that Karine is by the book, literally by the book,” the first White House reporter said. “And that means that unless your question has some pre-prepared response in that book, you’re probably not going to get anything new out of her. I’m not sure if that’s a deliberate strategy by this administration to focus the conversation or limit it, but unless she is prepared and has a prepared response, you’re not going to get much out of her. At this point, on some of the more hot button topics, I mean, we’re always parsing answers, but now we’re parsing non-answers as well.”
Asked if it was better for her to not speak out of her depth and potentially deliver bad information, the reporter said she could better avail herself of the White House’s considerable resources.
“I don’t want to give anyone advice, but I think that if she wasn’t prepared to do a give-and-take on any of these issues, you know, there’s a way for her to speed up and learn about all of these issues so that she can, you know, mix it up with reporters. I’m not certain if that’s something that the White House wants right now, though, because remember, Jen Psaki’s parting advice to Karine was ‘don’t worry too much about winning the argument in the room’,” they said.
Karine Jean-Pierre was introduced by former White House Press Secretary Jennifer Psaki as President Joe Biden’s next White House press secretary at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 5, 2022.  (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
Today News Africa correspondent Simon Ateba, who has openly sparred with Psaki and Jean-Pierre and expressed frustration at times over not getting answers to his questions, said Jean-Pierre had greatly improved over the past few weeks.
“At the beginning, following her first press briefing, several reporters told me that ‘this would be a disaster,'” he told Fox News Digital in a message. “They accused her of reading too much from her notes, of being caught off guard all the time, and of trying to spin all the time rather than answering questions… She was also accused of being too afraid to call on reporters from across the room, people like me, or others, for instance, from the New York Post, the Washington Times, Al-Jazeera… But between then and now, several reporters have also told me that she has gained confidence, is reading less, and has tried to call on people from across the room, including me, twice.”
“Behind the scenes, I would say that to be fair to her she replies emails promptly when you send it, at least mine, but unlike Jen Psaki who used to meet reporters in her office for quick questions, she rarely does that with those who are not from the mainstream media,” he added.
Politico reported that Black communications officials inside and outside the White House thought the repeated presence of National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was effectively undercutting Jean-Pierre, the first Black and gay woman to hold the spot, in her new role. From June 21 to 25, he appeared three times in five days in the briefing room or the gaggle alongside Jean-Pierre.
“It’s almost as if he’s the second press secretary, he shows up all the time, takes questions that she should answer, and steals the shine and the show from her. It’s a strange situation,” Ateba said.
“Kirby is not a babysitter, he is a co-press secretary, taking serious foreign affairs off of Jean-Pierre’s portfolio,” the second White House reporter said. “Biden likes to see Kirby taking the questions on serious national security issues.”
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.
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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. ©2022 FOX News Network, LLC. All rights reserved. Quotes displayed in real-time or delayed by at least 15 minutes. Market data provided by Factset. Powered and implemented by FactSet Digital Solutions. Legal Statement. Mutual Fund and ETF data provided by Refinitiv Lipper.


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