Nov 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden likely to choose a woman, a person of color or both for White House press secretary

Illustration of a podium with the white house seal on it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Kate Bedingfield, Symone Sanders and Karine Jean-Pierre are all in contention to serve as President-elect Joe Biden's White House press secretary, but sources tell Axios there are other alternatives — including the possibility of bringing on a prominent TV personality.

Why it matters: The face and voice at the podium matters substantively and symbolically.

  • Given that Biden is a white man whose top advisers may include many white men, and that he has promised to diversify Democratic Party leadership, it's likely he will pick a woman, a person of color or both for the podium.
  • Where the press secretary ranks on the White House org chart is up to the chief of staff — so Ron Klain will decide whether the role reports to him or the communications director.

Details: Sanders worked for Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016 and joined Biden's 2020 bid early. Observers note her deftness on TV and that she was a frequent Biden travel companion during the campaign's closing weeks.

  • Jean-Pierre, a former Obama official, joined the team in May and served as Kamala Harris' chief of staff after she was tapped for running mate in August. Jean-Pierre traveled less with Harris toward the end of the campaign.
  • Kate Bedingfield, Biden's communication director when he was vice president, drew accolades for the communications plan correctly envisioning him securing the nomination in South Carolina. She has remained close to him and also could end up as White House communications director.
  • Jen Psaki, who has joined Biden's transition team and served as Obama's communications director, has told officials that with young kids at home, she has no plans to come back.

Flashback: When Biden became vice president, he picked Time magazine journalist Jay Carney for his communications director. Carney later became President Obama's second press secretary.

  • More recently, Biden tapped historian and former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham for help with his campaign speeches, bringing another white man's perspective with some rhetorical and celebrity wattage.
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