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Biden’s new spokesperson has environmental roots

Before she was set to become a White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre was an environmentalist on a mission to save tiny shorebirds.

“My environmental work started by pure chance,” Jean-Pierre wrote in his 2019 memoir, “Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America.” She was a 19-year-old college student when she landed a summer gig as a telephone canvasser for a group called Citizens Campaign for the Environment on Long Island.

Her boss hired her for a side project to monitor piping plovers, long-legged shorebirds that nest near the water’s edge. She wore an Aussie slouch hat with a large Tweety bird decal as she peered into the nests. Retirees who drove their RVs to the beach parking lot began to recognize it.

“” they were shouting with this unforgettable Long Island accent, nasal and consonantal, “wrote Jean-Pierre. “How are those plovers?” »

Decades later, she’s about to be recognized by many more people.

Jean-Pierre, 44, will become Biden’s press secretary and main spokesperson upon the exit of Jen Psaki, the White House announced yesterday. She will be the first black person and the first openly gay person to hold the title. Her partner is CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux; they have a daughter.

From the podium in the White House briefing room, Jean-Pierre will deliver Biden’s talking points and be peppered with questions from reporters on just about every topic, no doubt including climate change and environmental issues. .

These are subjects close to his heart, according to his book.

The summer after graduating from college, Jean-Pierre worked as a counselor for Girls Action GREEN, which aimed to expose girls from underserved communities on Long Island to the outdoors. This work “awakened me to the concept of ‘environmental justice,'” she wrote. “Underserved communities suffer from air, water and soil pollution due to chemical contamination.”

For another part-time job with Theodore Roosevelt Shrine and Audubon Center, she transported animals, including a 7-foot snake and a red-tailed hawk, in a van to give presentations in classrooms. She still has a scar from a turkey vulture ripping the leather sleeve off her arm, she wrote.

She then studied public administration at Columbia University and launched a career in activism and Democratic politics.

Jean-Pierre has worked for the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn.org and the presidential campaigns of Democrats John Edwards, Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama. She served in the Obama White House before joining the Biden administration as senior deputy press secretary.

An introvert takes the podium

Despite his many high profile jobs, Jean-Pierre describes himself as an introvert who struggles to be constantly “active”.

Her shyness dogged her into adulthood, she wrote, including meetings at the Obama White House when she was Regional Policy Director: Northeast Update.

She found television to be less intimidating than talking to a group of people. “It was like a one-on-one conversation. Except the camera couldn’t respond!

Jean-Pierre will no doubt bring a different style to the podium than PSAki, who is known to argue with reporters when she objects to their questions.

But Jean-Pierre can defend himself.

During a 2019 discussion with her and California Senator Kamala Harris, a protester jumped onto the stage and grabbed the microphone from Harris’s hand. Jean-Pierre jumped up to confront the demonstrator, interposing himself between him and the senator. Later, during the 2020 presidential campaign, Harris hired Jean-Pierre to be his chief of staff.

“Party of climate change deniers”

The new press secretary takes on the job in a year of midterm elections when political polarization in Washington is expected to escalate further.

She detailed her frustrations with Republicans in her book, which was written before joining the Biden administration.

“I believe the Republican Party opposes economic equality and social justice,” she wrote. “I think it’s becoming a negative force in our society and has caused far more problems than it has solved.”

Comprised of “increasingly older white men,” the GOP “represents the interests of the very wealthy in America — people like the billionaire Koch brothers,” she wrote. “It’s also a party of climate change deniers and white nationalists.”

The Democratic Party is “far from perfect”, she added. “But the Democratic Party has been a champion of regular workers.”

Jean-Pierre will replace Psaki when he leaves on May 13, Biden announced. PSAki was reportedly in talks to join MSNBC after leaving the White House.

“Jen Psaki set the standard for the return of decency, respect and decorum to the White House briefing room,” Biden said in a statement. He said he and first lady Jill Biden “have known and respected Karine for a long time and she will be a strong voice to speak for me and this administration.”

Biden confidante Anita Dunn also returned to the White House from her political consulting firm, Biden said. She will work on White House policy and communications as a senior adviser to the president.

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