White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki returned from Covid only to get torched over a report that she will soon be taking a job at MSNBC. Watch:
“Is it true that you are leaving the White House to work for MSNBC?” CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe asked on Friday.
“Well, you can’t get rid of me yet, Ed,” she replied. “I have nothing to confirm about my length of public service or planned service or anything about consideration about next plans,” Psaki said.
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“I’m very happy to be standing with all of you here today after, it felt like a never-ending endless time in my basement, quarantining away from my family,” she added. “Believe it or not, I missed you all a lot. And my focus every day continues to be speaking on behalf of the President, answering your questions, as tough as they may be at many times, as difficult as they may be to answer at many times, and I hope that I meet my own bar of treating everybody with fairness and being equitable.”
“And just because this has been raised by our colleagues, by people who are observing this process, is it ethical for you to continue conducting this job while negotiating with a media outlet?” O’Keefe followed up.
“Well, I have always gone over and above the stringent ethical and legal requirements of the Biden Administration, and I take that very seriously,” she replied. “And as a standard for every employee of the White House, I have received rigorous ethics counseling, including as it relates to any future employment.”
“I’ve complied with all ethics requirements and gone beyond and taken steps to recuse myself from decisions as appropriate,” she added. “And so, I hope that all of you, I’ve been working with all of you some time would judge me for my record and how I treat all of you, both in the briefing room and otherwise, and I try to answer questions from everybody across the board. I know everybody in the back of the room may not always be pleased with me, but I try my best and I will certainly continue to do that. Okay, go ahead.”
“Jen, given the reports, which have now been confirmed by multiple media outlets, how can you continue to be an effective briefer if you do, in fact, have plans to join a media outlet?” NBC News’ Kristen Welker pressed.
“Well, I have nothing, again, to announce about any conversations or any future plans,” she went on. “And at whatever time I leave the White House, I can promise you, the first thing I’m going to do is sleep and spend time with my three and six-year-olds, who are my most important audiences of all.”
“But I would say, Kristen, that again, I have done — have taken the ethics legal requirements to the highest, very seriously in any discussions and any considerations about any future employment, just as any White House official would, and I have taken steps beyond that to ensure there’s no conflicts,” she claimed.
“And I understand what you’re saying, but I guess the question is, how is it ethical to have these conversations with media outlets while you continue to have a job standing behind that podium?” Welker reiterated.
“Well, there are a range of stringent ethical and legal requirements that are imposed on everybody in this administration and many administrations past about any conversations you’re having with future employers. That is true of any industry you’re working in, and I have abided by those and tried to take steps to go beyond that as well,” Psaki replied.
“And broadly speaking, is it the policy of this White House to allow staffers to have discussions, even if indirectly, with institutions that impact and affect their jobs and your job here?” Welker went on.
“Well, it is the policy of this White House to ensure that anyone who is having conversations about future employment does so through consultation with the White House counsel’s office and ensuring they abide by any ethics and legal requirements. And those are conversations that I have taken very seriously and abided by every component of,” she claimed.
It is interesting that the most confrontational part of Psaki’s exchange came with NBC News’ Kristen Welker, who represents MSNBC’s sister network. It is enough to make one question whether or not this grilling was scriped for public appearances to placate the rest of the White House press and to save face for NBC News. CBS News’ initial line-of-questioning would thus provide a bit of smokescreen to prevent news consumers from easily noting this potential orchestration.
Regardless, Welker is correct that Psaki agreeing in principle to taking an MSNBC hosting job after her time as White House Press Secretary is concluded in May would raise ethical questions about conflicts of interest. on April 1st, Axios reported a “scoop” that she is leaving for MSNBC.
“White House press secretary Jen Psaki is in exclusive talks with MSNBC to join the network after she leaves the White House around May, according to a source close to the matter,” Axios reported.
“Psaki has been in close consultation with the White House counsel’s office about her departure, according to two sources familiar with the plans,” Axios continued. “She’s been treading carefully on the ethics and legal aspects of her plans.”
Axios provided the key details [quote]:
- No contracts have been signed. Government ethics rules have stipulations about how public employees can pursue private sector job opportunities while in office.
- She’s also told some senior officials at the White House about her departure and her plans to join MSNBC, according to two sources.
- Psaki has not yet formally told the White House press team about her departure, an administration source tells Axios.
- MSNBC has been working with its compliance lawyers to make sure their conversations didn’t violate any government regulations, according to a source close to the matter.
- Psaki is now in exclusive talks with MSNBC, and the deal is nearly final. It was reported by Puck last month that Psaki also had conversations with CNN and that other networks had expressed interest in signing her.
- Psaki will host a show for MSNBC on NBCUniversal’s streaming platform, Peacock.
“She will also be a part of live programming on MSNBC’s cable network as a voice on different shows, but she will not be hosting the 9 p.m. hour replacing Rachel Maddow, which has been speculated,” Axios added.
“Is Jen Psaki the next Rachel Maddow?” That was the provocative headline from Puck News in late February that started the rumors flying about the present press secretary.
Execs at four of the biggest left-leaning networks on television have purportedly courted her while she is the Press Secretary: CNN, MSNBC, ABC and CBS. Jen Psaki joked about getting a job at CNN or MSNBC in late February. Watch:
“I read that you are looking for a job at CNN or MSNBC,” one journalist remarked.
“I have more than enough on my plate here,” she quipped. “So, you can’t get rid of me quite yet — sorry, Peter, for you on that.”
But reports from media insiders earlier pointed out that Psaki being poached remains very much a possibility.
“Psaki is reportedly being ‘feverishly courted’ by executives at CNN and NBC News who want to make the press secretary their newest primetime host, according to Puck News, which reports that ABC News and CBS News have also expressed interest in Psaki,” the Free Beacon reported. “Psaki has reportedly sat down for lunches with news executives along with her agent Jay Sures, who heads United Talent Agency and is actively representing Psaki as she looks to leave the White House.”
Biden’s top spokesperson has been barraged with criticism about her purported ‘front row’ favoritism that is being shown to reporters at the above-named outlets. While MSNBC was not on the front row, its sister network NBC News is.
“Four out of the seven news organizations holding coveted seats in the front row of the White House briefing room are reportedly in active talks to hire Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who faced criticism from the press corps on Monday for letting those at the front of the room dominate her briefings,” the Free Beacon added. It provided a graphic for readers to better understand the press seating tussle.
Psaki announced in May 2021 that she planning to leave her current White House role sometime in 2022.
“I think it’s going to be time for somebody else to have this job in a year from now or about a year from now,” she said.
Jen Psaki responding to accusations of unethical behavior as press secretary with the non-denial denial that she is receiving “ethics counseling” is revealing. It goes to show that Psaki may go down as one of the most unethical press secretaries in modern times. She will fit in perfectly at MSNBC.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.