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Obama Surprises Spokesman Josh Earnest at Final White House Press Briefing

Pres. Obama Surprises Josh Earnest at Last WH Press Briefing 2:45

President Barack Obama crashed press secretary Josh Earnest's final White House briefing Tuesday, offering effusive praise for his spokesman while joking that he was an obvious campaign hire 10 years ago.

"He’s just got that all-American, matinee good-looking thing going. That's helpful, let's face it — face made for television," Obama told reporters from the press briefing room in the West Wing. "Then, the guy's name is Josh Earnest. For someone speaking on your behalf, it's a pretty good name to have."

Image:
White House press secretary Josh Earnest listens as President Barack Obama speaks at his final daily press briefing, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017, in the briefing room of the White House in Washington. Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Before Earnest tackled foreign policy questions from reporters, while also urging the next administration to continue preserving ties with the press corps, Obama thanked the 41-year-old press secretary for his service as he rose the ranks to become his top spokesman. Earnest, one of a handful of staffers to stick with the administration through two terms, has led more than 350 press briefings.

"What struck me most in addition to his smarts, his maturity and actual interest in the issues was his integrity," the president told reporters.

Obama ducked out before answering questions. He's set to hold his final press conference Wednesday afternoon before leaving Washington, D.C., on Friday when President-elect Donald Trump is sworn-in at the Capitol.

At Last Briefing, Earnest Reflects on Time as Press Secretary 5:33

Earnest told reporters the first family will be leaving the Washington winter for a temporary post-presidential getaway in sunny Palm Springs, California.

The spokesman also said he hopes the regular press briefings are protected when the Trump administration takes office so that reporters can continue asking tough questions.

"It’s a necessary part of our democracy," Earnest said. "The hope is that the essence of this relationship between the White House Press Corps and the White House Press Office is maintained."

Related: Reince Priebus: Press Access to White House ‘Hasn’t Been Determined’

Incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus told "Meet the Press" on Sunday that Trump's administration hasn't yet decided whether it will allow media outlets to continue to work just steps from the Oval Office instead of out of another nearby building.

"I would say it's a really important symbol," Earnest said of keeping the press on site, adding, "There is something symbolic of all of you gathering here every single day to demand answers, to hold people accountable."