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Karine Jean-Pierre makes history in White House briefing room

Jean-Pierre is the first openly gay spokeswoman and second Black woman to brief the press from the White House briefing room podium.
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WASHINGTON — Karine Jean-Pierre, White House principal deputy press secretary, took the podium in the James S. Brady Briefing Room for the first time Wednesday, becoming the first openly gay spokeswoman and the second Black woman to do so.

Jean-Pierre, 43, follows Judy Smith, who served as deputy press secretary to President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Smith was the inspiration for the Olivia Pope character on the hit TV show "Scandal."

"It's a real honor to be standing here today," Jean-Pierre said. "Clearly the president believes that representation matters and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity."

Khanya Brann, special assistant to the communications director, tweeted a photo of Jean-Pierre and Smith at together at the White House on Wednesday.

Jean-Pierre has held five informal briefings — known as "gaggles" — aboard Air Force One for the reporters traveling with the president. She frequently sits to the side of the podium at Psaki's briefings and often represents the administration on cable news.

But her tenure has not been without hiccups. During an Air Force One briefing in early May, Jean-Pierre incorrectly said the Biden administration supported Ukraine’s interest in joining NATO. The White House was later forced to correct the record.

"Today is a big day in the press office and @WhiteHouse," White House press secretary Jen Psaki tweeted Wednesday morning.

"My partner in truth--@KJP46 is doing her first full briefing from the podium today making history in her own right. But doing her real justice means also recognizing her talent, her brilliance and her wonderful spirit."

Jean-Pierre's briefing comes as Psaki has said that she plans to leave her position next year. As Psaki's deputy, Jean-Pierre is seen as a potential candidate to take over the role.

Psaki has said that it is important to her to turn over the podium to more diverse voices and to prepare those in her office to step into bigger roles when she leaves the position sometime next year.

Symone Sanders, the chief spokesperson for Vice President Kamala Harris who recently deflected questions about her interest in the White House press secretary role, tweeted: "I will be raising my coffee cup during the WH press briefing in celebration of representation, aptitude and brilliance. The ancestors are proud."

Jean-Pierre previously served as chief of staff to Harris during the 2020 campaign. She is a former political analyst for MSNBC.