Psaki Show Series Finale Goes Off With Gooey Platitudes, Cheering on Successor

News & Politics

Throwing back to Friday and the final episode of The Psaki Show, Jen Psaki departed as White House press secretary with a briefing that featured points of chaos with Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba’s heckling, thank you’s from reporters, and an emotional, eye-rolling series of thank you’s from Psaki that included thanking the liberal media for their “accountability” of the administration to help “make this country stronger.”

Psaki opened the briefing with local law enforcement officials and laying out President Biden’s schedule for this week, but then reflected on her 16 months in the White House. 

She first thanked the President and First Lady for “entrust[ing] me in serving in this role” and while she “was very nervous” when interviewing for the job, it eased as they “talked about…the importance of returning integrity, respect, and civility to the White House” even though she and Biden fell short at times by “let[ting] our Irish side show.”

“But on my best days and as I look back, I hope I followed the example of integrity and grace that they have set for all of us and do set for all of us every day. And I’m incredibly grateful to them,” she added.

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Psaki moved to the White House staff and her press team, gushing over them as having “integrity, grit, [and] commitment” that “make the world better for the American people” (click “expand”):

I have — I’m not going to get everyone here, but I want to thank — there’s a Biden family that has extended and expanded far beyond the Biden-named family. And that includes people who have worked with the President and for the President for many years: Ron, Anita, Bruce, Cedric, Kate, JOD, Donilon, Ricchetti, Susan, Deese, Jake, Evan, Annie, Elizabeth Alexander.  There’s so many others. And the reason I mention them is because part of my job or anyone’s job in this role is to represent and talk about the policies of — and the work of any administration. They have integrity, grit, commitment to trying, even on the hardest days and worst days, to make the world better for the American people and I am very grateful to them. 

Now, I’m not going to cry about the press team. Whew. Okay. [LAUGHTER] Thank you to the press team. Many of them are here. Some of them are not here because they’re taking much-needed days off. It has nothing to do with me personally, I promise. But you all know a lot of them. For those who don’t know them: They are incredibly tough, smart, hardworking, and deeply, deeply good human beings, deeply good public servants.

Psaki grew more tear-eyed as she said that while “people always ask me…about whether Washington is rotten” and “corrupt,” she found “the absolute opposite is true because I have worked with and engaged with all of these incredible people across the administration and this amazing team, many of whom are here, that I get to work with every day.”

Last but certainly not least, she thanked her comrades (and, for some, future colleagues at MSNBC) for “hav[ing] challenged…pushed…debated,” and “disagreed” with her as “[t]hat is democracy in action” because “[w]ithout accountability, without debate, government is not as strong, and you all play an incredibly pivotal role.”

“Thank you for what you do. Thank you for making me better. And, most importantly, thank you for the work every day you do to make this country stronger. And I am very grateful to all of you as well. So, thank you for your role and to the role of your colleagues here and around the world,” she continued.

The AP’s Zeke Miller tried to begin asking questions, but Ateba’s shouting drowned him out. That was temporarily on pause as Psaki remembered to thank her husband because “he is an incredible partner and dad” and “without a remarkable spouse, you would never be able to do it.”

Later in the briefing, The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker asked if she could publicly share any advice for her successor, former MSNBC contributor and MoveOn.org spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.

Along with “project, convey the positions, the policies, the views of the President of the United States” and be sure to “speak with” and “engage with him” in order best answer reporter questions, she had two other points (click “expand”):

The second thing I would say — and in my heart, I’m a bit of a policy nerd, but I would tell this to anyone — is that the more you know about policy issues and the more you can go in depth on it and spend time digging, pushing, and questioning the policy teams, the better able you will be to answer tough questions, to answer the 12th question, and, hopefully, provide information to the public. And the last thing I would say is that it can be repetitive in here from time to time. [LAUGHTER] That’s not a critique. You are all doing your jobs.

But in the age of social media, always provide the context and all the details, because you never want to be a meme with one line. That would be my (inaudible). But, otherwise, be yourself. And Karine, as I said last week, is going to bring her own magic, her brilliance, her style to this briefing room. And always, for anyone who comes after Karine — me or Karine, it’s to continue to make it better and do better for the President and the — and the American people.

Thankfully, the briefing itself wasn’t a lost cause thanks to tough questions from the likes of Fox’s Jacqui Heinrich and Real Clear Politics’s Philip Wegmann.

To see our look back at a smattering of the best/worst moments from Psaki briefings, check out our recap here.

To see the relevant transcript from May 13’s briefing, click “expand.”

White House press briefing [via C-SPAN2]
May 13, 2022
1:35 p.m. Eastern

JEN PSAKI: Last thing I wanted to just say — so I have one more topper. You know, this is my last briefing. 

BRIAN KAREM: No.

JEN PSAKI: It is, Brian. And I wanted to start with a series of thank yous. And I promised myself I wasn’t going to get emotional. Whew.  Okay. Thank you.  I want to say thank you to the President and the First Lady. They entrusted me in serving in this role for the last 15 months. And I’ve talked about this a little bit before, but during my first conversation with them, which was in November of 2020, after the election, I was very nervous when I went to see them in Delaware. And, really, what we talked about for the majority of our conversation was the importance of returning integrity, respect, and civility to the White House — the small sliver of my job here in engaging with all of you. That does not mean that we haven’t let our Irish side show — mine and the President’s as well — from time to time. I recognize that.  But on my best days and as I look back, I hope I followed the example of integrity and grace that they have set for all of us and do set for all of us every day. And I’m incredibly grateful to them. 

I have — I’m not going to get everyone here, but I want to thank — there’s a Biden family that has extended and expanded far beyond the Biden-named family. And that includes people who have worked with the President and for the President for many years: Ron, Anita, Bruce, Cedric, Kate, JOD, Donilon, Ricchetti, Susan, Deese, Jake, Evan, Annie, Elizabeth Alexander.  There’s so many others. And the reason I mention them is because part of my job or anyone’s job in this role is to represent and talk about the policies of — and the work of any administration. They have integrity, grit, commitment to trying, even on the hardest days and worst days, to make the world better for the American people and I am very grateful to them. 

Now, I’m not going to cry about the press team. Whew. Okay. [LAUGHTER] Thank you to the press team. Many of them are here. Some of them are not here because they’re taking much-needed days off. It has nothing to do with me personally, I promise. But you all know a lot of them. For those who don’t know them: They are incredibly tough, smart, hardworking, and deeply, deeply good human beings, deeply good public servants.

And, you know, people always ask me — and I’m sure you guys get asked this too — about whether Washington is rotten; you know, whether everybody is corrupt here and, you know, nothing good happens and we all just argue with each other. And I, having done this job, believe the absolute opposite is true. Because I have worked with and engaged with all of these incredible people across the administration and this amazing team, many of whom are here, that I get to work with every day. And I — as I said about Karine last week, these people are already the stars of the team, but they’re going to be shining stars in the future and I’ll miss them a lot. Okay. Whew. I promised myself I was going to keep it together; I’m not.

This is the last part of this: I want to thank all of you in this room. You have challenged me. You have pushed me. You have debated me, and at times, we have disagreed. That is democracy in action. That is it working. Without accountability, without debate, government is not as strong, and you all play an incredibly pivotal role. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for making me better. And, most importantly, thank you for the work every day you do to make this country stronger. And I am very grateful to all of you as well. So, thank you for your role and to the role of your colleagues here and around the world. Okay. With that, Zeke, go ahead.

SIMON ATEBA: [INAUDIBLE]

ZEKE MILLER: Thank you, Jen.  And we wish you well and we hope you enjoy —

ATEBA: [INAUDIBLE]

PSAKI: Can I do one more thank-you? Because my husband is here and I think anybody who is married with kids knows that without a remarkable spouse, you would never be able to do it. I know many of you have kids. I’m just looking at Ashley, Ed, Mary, so many — MJ and he has not only been a supporter, an advocate of mine, but he is an incredible partner and dad, and I wouldn’t be here without him. Okay, go ahead. Now let’s talk about serious issues. Go ahead.

(….)

2:12 p.m. Eastern

ASHLEY PARKER: And pivoting briefly, what advice do you have for Karine as she prepares to step into your role?

KAREM: That you can say in public. [LAUGHTER]

PSAKI: I can — I can say we’re very transparent here, Brian. [LAUGHTER] You know, I would say that some of the lessons I’ve learned that I would — I would tell anyone, including Karine — obviously, we’ve had many discussions about this — would be: One, you know, the best — the most important job that you have in this — in this role, I think — tied with another one, but I’ll get to the point — is to project, convey the positions, the policies, the views of the President of the United States. And every opportunity you have to speak with him, to engage with him, to ask him questions — oftentimes, I will tell you, they are questions that you all have asked me in the Briefing Room or otherwise — it will make you better equipped and even more effective, because our job is to speak on his behalf. The second thing I would say — and in my heart, I’m a bit of a policy nerd, but I would tell this to anyone — is that the more you know about policy issues and the more you can go in depth on it and spend time digging, pushing, and questioning the policy teams, the better able you will be to answer tough questions, to answer the 12th question, and, hopefully, provide information to the public. And the last thing I would say is that it can be repetitive in here from time to time. [LAUGHTER] That’s not a critique. You are all doing your jobs. But in the age of social media, always provide the context and all the details, because you never want to be a meme with one line.  hat would be my (inaudible). But, otherwise, be yourself. And Karine, as I said last week, is going to bring her own magic, her brilliance, her style to this briefing room. And always, for anyone who comes after Karine — me or Karine, it’s to continue to make it better and do better for the President and the — and the American people.

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