Report: Biden’s Offhand Remark Set Stage for Toxic KJP-Kirby Press Secretary Rivalry

Report: Biden’s Offhand Remark Set Stage for Toxic KJP-Kirby Press Secretary Rivalry

If you’re in the habit of watching White House news briefings — and I know there are some of you masochists out there — you might be confused whether Karine Jean-Pierre or John Kirby is the one in charge in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

You’re not the only one, and this confusion apparently extends to both KJP and Kirby.

Not only that, but according to a new report, President Joe Biden may have set the stage by undermining Jean-Pierre with a comment he made to her before she became the first black LGBT woman to have the title of press secretary — implying, probably accidentally, that Kirby would be providing oversight for the much younger, less-experienced KJP.

The extent of the toxic behind-the-scenes relationship between Jean-Pierre and Kirby, a retired admiral and the coordinator of strategic communications for the National Security Council, was a bit of an open Beltway secret when Axios’ Alex Thompson made it a very open secret with a Jan. 5 report.

“They share a podium — and a mutual frustration. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and the National Security Council’s John Kirby frequently split the podium at media briefings, but behind the scenes their relationship is fraught with tension, White House sources tell Axios,” Thompson wrote.

“Some of the tension stems from how much time each gets at the podium each day,” he added. “Kirby — a Biden favorite who has become the public face of the administration’s response to the Israel-Hamas war — has told people he’d like to be White House press secretary one day.

“Jean-Pierre has told people she plans to stay in the job through the election and beyond if Biden wants her — and that he has asked her not to leave.”

The conflict hasn’t been resolved over the last month and a half. On Tuesday, The New York Times noted the problematic two-person act at the media briefing podium in an article titled: “Who Speaks for the President? Depends on Whom You Ask.”

The gist of Michael M. Grynbaum’s report was that while Jean-Pierre checked all of the boxes when she was named to replace Jen Psaki in 2022 — young, black, LGBT, female — “Americans are seeing less of her lately” because the geopolitical situation got a lot more serious after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and Kirby, who has both more experience in Washington and with the military, is a more effective mouthpiece for the administration despite the fact he’s an old, straight, white male.

“Mr. Kirby, 60, a retired Navy admiral who previously worked at the Pentagon and the State Department, is better versed in foreign affairs at a time of war in Ukraine and the Middle East. He evinces a clarity and comfort at the lectern that can sometimes elude Ms. Jean-Pierre, 49, a more rote public speaker with less experience tussling with an adversarial press,” Grynbaum wrote.

Leaving aside how much of a smile Grynbaum had to stifle while typing the words “adversarial press” on his MacBook — apparently, an “adversarial press” consists of several dozen establishment media drones who wish they could be KJP and the exception to that archetype, Fox News’ Peter Doocy — Jean-Pierre has oft looked like a deer in the headlights trying to walk the Biden administration tightrope of not outright supporting the anti-Israel (and, to be blunt, anti-Semitic) faction of the Democratic Party while not alienating that group in an election year, either.

This has worked every bit as swimmingly as you might expect:

Now, the fact remains that Jean-Pierre is responsible for the idiocies that come out of her mouth and the “rote” manner in which they escape that mouth. However, in his Tuesday piece, Grynbaum argued that the president might not have helped matters any by undermining her confidence from the beginning.

In the piece, he called the decision to elevate KJP to press secretary a “situation [that] was awkward from the start” and said that when Biden “chose Ms. Jean-Pierre to succeed Jen Psaki, his first press secretary, he did so despite the misgivings of some senior aides who believed she needed more seasoning for the job, according to three people with knowledge of the dynamics inside the West Wing.”

But don’t worry, Uncle Joe reportedly told her as she was about to step into the role: Everything is gonna work out fine. Because, you know, John Kirby will be there.

“At a May 2022 reception on the Truman Balcony, held in honor of Ms. Psaki’s departure, Mr. Biden was speaking with a group of aides when he tried to reassure Ms. Jean-Pierre not to worry about filling Ms. Psaki’s shoes, according to two people with direct knowledge of their exchange,” Grynbaum wrote.

“After all, Mr. Biden told her, ‘you’ll have an admiral looking over your shoulder.'” As in, Kirby.

“The president’s tone suggested he wanted to be encouraging, the people said, but the comment landed with a thud,” the article said. Gosh, I wonder why.

It’s worth noting that Grynbaum reported that a “White House spokesman said the president did not make that remark.” However, leaving aside that this is The New York Times, 1) Grynbaum has two sources with “direct knowledge of their exchange” and 2) does anybody trust the president’s memory of what he said 30 seconds ago, much less in May 2022?

And, beyond that, this is possibly the most Joe Biden thing Joe Biden could have possibly done.

First, hire someone to fill a position who can be billed as the “first [insert intersectionally oppressed group here]” to fill an important role.

Then, tell that person right before she fills that role to not worry, there’s a capable white guy backing her up? (Remember some of Biden’s greatest hits on race, after all: “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump then you ain’t black,” or maybe, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” All that good stuff.)

And when things really hit the fan and the person Biden undermined isn’t exactly filling the role with the brio that’s needed, in comes John Kirby to save the day.

But don’t worry, the Biden administration wants you to think, this is just temporary.

“The White House attributes Mr. Kirby’s larger role to the flurry of international news and says he will brief less often once the Middle East crisis ebbs,” Grynbaum wrote.

“But the perception in Washington that President Biden has allowed Mr. Kirby, who is white, to upstage a Black woman as the face of his White House has turned their double act into a third-rail subject.”

If true, it wouldn’t be the first time Biden has turned matters of race, competency and confidence in his staff into a third-rail subject through the machinations of his own blundering — and it sure as heck won’t be the last.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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