Jen Psaki is the White House press secretary for President Joe Biden. And in her role, she has focused on helping the nation achieve a sense of balance and normalcy after a chaotic past few years.
By becoming press secretary, Psaki (pronounced like “saké”) became a household name. But what do we actually know about her background and her experience?
We’ve got the full breakdown about the unknown truth of Jen Psaki.
Where does Jen Psaki come from?
Becoming press secretary certainly represents the heights of Jen Psaki’s achievements so far. But the achievements are even more impressive when you understand her humble background.
Psaki was born in Stamford, Connecticut on December 1, 1978. Her dad, Dimitrios “James” R. Psaki, is a former real estate developer while her mom, Eileen Dolan Medvey, is a psychotherapist. And in 2006, Psaki graduated from Greenwich High School.
Upon graduating high school, Psaki majored in English and sociology at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she mastered her social skills as part of the Chi Omega sorority and even her athletic skills. While in college, she was a competitive backstroke swimmer for the William & Mary Tribe athletic team.
Previous job experience
After graduating college, Psaki enjoyed a meteoric career. In 2001, she helped with the senatorial reelection campaign for Tom Harkin and the gubernatorial campaign for Tom Vilsack, both Iowa Democrats.
In 2004, Psaki became John Kerry’s deputy press secretary. And two years later,, she was a communications director for Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and even the regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
But Psaki’s career really took off when she started working for Barack Obama. She was his traveling press secretary in 2008 and then Deputy Press Secretary after he won the presidential election. Soon, she became Deputy Communications Director of the White House.
While Psaki briefly handled PR for the Global Strategy Group in 2011, she returned to the White House to help with Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. She then became the spokesperson for the United States Department of State before serving as White House communications director in 2015.
After Obama left office in 2017, Psaki became a CNN commentator. But she left that role to serve in Joe Biden’s transition team when he won the 2020 presidential election.
So, how did Jen Psaki become press secretary for Biden?
Becoming press secretary
The press secretary position is one of the most important positions in any presidential administration. While Psaki has an extensive track record in communications, her primary experience for this job started during the Obama administration. From 2015–2016, she served as President Obama’s communications director. She helped modernize White House communications in order to focus more on internet outlets and other nontraditional news outlets.
After Joe Biden won the 2020 election, Psaki served as press secretary during his transition into the White House. Beyond that, she also helped to get several key Biden Cabinet officials confirmed.
She certainly seems ready for the new gig. “Rebuilding trust with the American people will be central to our focus in the press office and in the White House every single day,” Psaki said during her very first briefing as press secretary.
But what do people think of Psaki’s performance as press secretary?
Psaki gave her first briefing as press secretary on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021 and caused a sensation on social media.
“I have deep respect for the role of a free and independent press,” Psaki said at the briefing. “We have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people.”
Some people found her a breath of fresh air after the combative relationship the Trump administration’s press secretaries had with the press. “First non-weird White House Press Secretary in four years,” historian Michael Beschloss wrote on Twitter.
Still, Psaki is not without her detractors. When Psaki was asked about the Space Force, a branch of the military President Trump started, she replied with sarcasm, “Wow. Space force. It’s the plane of today!” This led some Republicans to demand an apology (they’re still waiting on that).
If Psaki sounds sarcastic about a Trump initiative, it’s because she has strong opinions on the previous administration. And she’s not afraid to share them.
Thoughts on the Trump administration
It’s naturally curious to wonder what the new press secretary thinks of the previous administration. And while Psaki likes to keep things civil, she has dropped a few hints that she is no fan of Donald Trump or his administration.
As CNN reports, when Psaki described her role in Biden’s presidency in May 2021, she spared no words in her assessment of the Trump administration. “We’re kind of still in recovery from the Game of Thrones period of our history here,” she said. “You know, some of some of what I think the job is in this moment — and this won’t always be and certainly hasn’t been historically — is kind of reaffirming and restating like what the role of government is, right? And what the role of agencies are and what the role of policy processes are and how a bill becomes a law.”
By referring to the previous four years as “the Game of Thrones period of our history,” Psaki is clearly indicating that Trump’s administration was a chaotic race for power. That’s why she sees it as her job to help return everything to a sense of normality.
Psaki’s real feelings about Kayleigh McEnany
Given Psaki’s feelings about the Trump administration, you might expect that she has strong words for her predecessor, Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. However, nothing could be further from the truth!
In a March 2021 interview with The Hill, Psaki revealed having a cordial relationship with McEnany when they crossed paths. “I met her when we were both CNN contributors, and we did a few shows — I’m not sure how many — together,” she said. “Like many Americans, we disagree on political issues, but we talked about our families, our spouses, sports, all sorts of things in the green room, and I certainly wish her the best in her future endeavors.”
So, how does Kayleigh McEnany feel about Jen Psaki?
It seems the respect is mutual. In March, McEnany told Fox News that Psaki “was very kind and so were some of her colleagues in the press shop.” Because of this, on her way out, McEnany left her successor a note wishing her “all the best.”
How long will Psaki be press secretary?
The role of White House press secretary is a demanding one. And it’s common for several people to take on the role during a president’s tenure. Trump went through four press secretaries (Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Stephanie Grisham, and Kayleigh McEnany), which might be a bit unusual for a one-term president, but it’s not unusual overall. Obama had three press secretaries, George W. Bush had four, and Bill Clinton had five.
So, how long can we expect Jen Psaki to stay press secretary before she moves on?
To hear Psaki tell it, she may not be sticking around for long. “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 revealed in May (via CNN).
And it’s possible that Psaki may want to step down after a year to focus on her family.
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Psaki’s personal life
What is Jen Psaki’s focus when she’s not working in the White House? She is very focused on her family, and she enjoys the ability to balance both her home life and her responsibilities.
She married her husband, political aide Greg Mecher, in 2010 and they have two young children together. And one of the reasons she felt confident about working with Joe Biden is that he understands the importance of family. As she said in an interview with Elle, Biden told her, “Anytime you have something that relates to your family, if you need to be there, you don’t need to ever explain that. Just tell us, and we’re good.”
And family is one of the reasons she won’t stay in this job very long. In the same interview, she mentioned that training others to replace her sooner rather than later “was appealing to me and important, in part, because I have little kids. I’ve served for many years in government, so I’m mindful of the impact this has on my family.” And if she can help someone else take the job, such as a“ woman of color in this job—or a man of color, for that matter,” she will be happy.