There’s something familiar about current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. She reminds me of Allison Janney’s C.J. Cregg on the NBC drama The West Wing. Level composure, matter-of-fact delivery, and a pretty tough deadpan stare. I adored C.J. Cregg and am enjoying watching Jen Psaki do her job.
Although it’s a distinct honor, the job of White House Press Secretary is intense. They serve as the gatekeeper and messenger on behalf of the President – whom at any given time is disliked by roughly half of the nation. They stand – daily, when they’re doing their job to its fullest extent – in front of a press corps who are ready for battle amongst themselves to report the nation’s news. The press secretary can expect to field increasingly intense questions as White House correspondents demand answers on behalf of American audiences. And depending on the media outlet, the questioning can range from softballs to national security to political party gossip. In every moment, Psaki must be “on” – alert, focused, and thoughtful in her reply.
What makes Psaki effective? She is building accountability and trust in the briefing room.
Psaki is straightforward, direct and respectful. She responds with candor to even the most coercive, irrelevant or combative question.
She is dedicated to the facts. When approached with vague references, she asks for clarity on their sources. If someone offers skewed interpretations or speculation, she counters with facts. She is quick to move on from misinformation, and time after time, she comes back to the facts.
I’ve seen it in the board room, and now I’m seeing it in the briefing room: Psaki is leveraging the value of facts to build an honest, respectful relationship with the press corps – and by extension, between the President and American people.