WASHINGTON — Karine Jean-Pierre made history Monday at a press briefing as the first Black woman and openly gay White House press secretary.
"I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts," Jean-Pierre said as she began the afternoon briefing. "I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman. The first of all three of those to hold this position."
Jean-Pierre, previously the White House's principal deputy press secretary, replaced Jen Psaki as White House press secretary following Psaki's departure from the White House on Friday. Psaki is reportedly in talks to join MSNBC.
Jean-Pierre led her first White House press briefing in May of last year, becoming the first Black woman field questions in that space in three decades. As the former No. 2 White House spokeswoman, Jean-Pierre filled in for Psaki on occasion at the podium and on Air Force One. But Monday marked her first briefing as press secretary.
Jean-Pierre told journalists at the briefing that she would "work every day to continue to ensure we are meeting the president's high expectation of truth, honesty, and transparency" from officials who serve in his administration.
"The press plays a vital role in our democracy. And we need a strong and independent press now more than ever," Jean-Pierre said. "We might not see eye to eye here in this room all the time, which is okay. That give and take is so incredibly healthy, and it's a part of our democracy. And I look forward to engaging with all of you on that."
As part of the transition, Psaki's White House Twitter account – @PressSec, which has 2.3 million followers – transferred to Jean-Pierre over the weekend.
Prior to joining the White House, Jean-Pierre, 47, worked as chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org and as an NBC and MSNBC political analyst. She was regional political director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama-Biden administration and deputy battleground states director for former President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.
Jean-Pierre, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, was born in Martinique and raised in New York City. She is married to CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. The couple has one daughter. When she first filled in for Psaki in May 2021, Jean-Pierre became the first Black woman to lead a White House press briefing since Judy Smith, deputy press secretary to President George H.W. Bush, who was the first Black woman to do so in 1991. Smith surprised Jean-Pierre with a visit to her office last May after the Biden spokeswoman took her first turn at the White House podium.
Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that she would not be in her new role if not for "generations" of "barrier-breaking people" whose experience and sacrifices she learned and benefited from.
"Representation does matter," she said. "You hear us say this often in this administration, and no one understands this better than President Biden."
Contributing: Maureen Groppe
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison and Francesca Chambers at @fran_chambers.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Karine Jean-Pierre leads history-making first White House briefing