The first press conference by Jen Psaki, press secretary for the Biden administration, showed how much has changed overnight in the White House.
There were no angry outbursts. No insults. No conspiracy theories from the lectern. Only civil, if largely unforgettable, exchange with reporters.
That Psaki didn't publish a lot of political news is understandable, given that she only started work hours before. What mattered, however, was the approach she took towards reporters.
"I have great respect for the role of a free and independent press in our democracy and for the role you all play," said Psaki, who was State Department spokeswoman during the Obama years, when she asked the first question. “As I mentioned earlier, there will be moments when we disagree, and there will certainly be days when we may disagree with even large parts of the briefing. However, we have a common goal: to provide accurate information to the American people. "
Zeke Miller gets the first question during a press conference from the Biden era. It's about whether Jen Psaki sees your role as "advancing the interests of the president" or whether you are here to tell the truth. Psaki replies that she respects the media. No insults. No meltdowns. pic.twitter.com/J3ADgL9uuT
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 21, 2021
Psaki's first briefing was in stark contrast to the first, held in January 2017 under President Donald Trump.
This memorable event, which happened the day after Trump's inauguration, was a surreal affair, which press secretary Sean Spicer furiously denounced reporters for accurately covering the relative smallness of Trump's inaugural crowd.
With Sean Spicer back on the news today, a look back at the moment when it became clear that the Trump administration was going to be the stuff of dystopian novels pic.twitter.com/in80iC7OQ1
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 17, 2019
Spicer's outbreak set the tone for the next four years, when White House briefings looked more like professional wrestling events than a bona fide effort to educate the American public. It often felt like their goal was to put on a spectacle in which White House officials claimed dominance over reporters.
Psaki appears ready to rewrite the briefings as they were in the Obama years, when the general public, good or bad, seldom took notice.
While Psaki tried not to blame Trump or any of the four press officers who worked for him, she alluded to the sad state of public relations in those years by promising to bring "truth and transparency back to the briefing room." . Most of the questions she asked Wednesday came from reporters asking her about Biden's plans or approach as a press officer, but she once artfully responded to a question from a Fox News reporter who asked her a key question about whether or not President Joe Biden should prevent the Senate from holding a second impeachment trial against Trump after he resigns.
"The Senate can also multitask," she said, arguing that Senators could hold a trial while they continue to grapple with pressing issues facing the American people.
Psaki takes a question from Fox News' Peter Doocy, who asks her a key question about whether Biden should stop the Senate from holding an impeachment trial against Trump. Psaki says she is "confident" that the Senate can "multitask". Pic.twitter.com/AQZGJXx1KH
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 21, 2021
None of this is supposed to idolize Psaki, who ended up working for an Obama administration that had poor relations with many members of the press corps. Not all of their press conferences will be the Sun and Rainbow Matters, which took place on Wednesday. But for one night at least, the uneventful interaction of a White House press secretary with reporters seemed to be something to celebrate.
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