President-elect Joe Biden will have an all-female senior communications team at his White House, naming longtime Democratic spokesperson Jen Psaki as his White House press secretary and campaign spokesperson Kate Bedingfield as communications director.
Biden also plans to name Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, as director of the Office of Management and Budget, according to a person familiar with the transition process granted anonymity to speak freely about internal deliberations.
All three are veterans of the Obama administration. Bedingfield served as communications director for Biden while he was vice president; Psaki was a White House communications director and a spokesperson at the State Department; and Tanden served as a senior adviser to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and helped craft the Affordable Care Act.
“Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House,” Biden said in a statement.
“These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” he added.
Karine Jean Pierre, who was Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ chief of staff, will serve as a principal deputy press secretary for the president-elect. She’s another Obama administration alum, having served as a regional political director for the White House office of political affairs.
Pili Tobar, who was communications director for coalitions on Biden’s campaign, will be his deputy White House communications director. She most recently was deputy director for America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group, and was a press staffer for Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The transition also announced the appointment of three Biden campaign senior advisers to top communications roles. Ashley Etienne, a former communications director for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will serve as Harris’ communications director. Symone Sanders, another senior adviser on the Biden campaign, will be Harris’ senior adviser and chief spokesperson.
Elizabeth Alexander, who served as the former vice president’s press secretary and his communications director while he was a U.S. senator from Delaware, will serve as Jill Biden’s communications director.
Biden suffers fractures in foot
Biden, meanwhile, suffered hairline fractures in his foot while playing with one of his dogs and will probably have to wear a protective boot for several weeks, his personal physician said on Sunday.
The incident happened on Saturday, Biden’s office said in a statement, with the 78-year-old Democrat visiting an orthopedist on Sunday for X-rays and a CT scan.
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The president-elect’s communications hires reflect Biden’s stated desire to build out a diverse White House team — four of the seven top communications roles will be filled by women of colour, and it’s the first time the entire senior White House communications team has been entirely female.
But they also reflect what’s expected to be a return to a more traditional White House press operation, after President Donald Trump upended the ways in which his administration communicated with the press.
After his campaign went virtual due to the coronavirus pandemic, Biden faced some of his own criticism for not being accessible to reporters. But near the end of the campaign, he answered questions from the press more frequently, and his transition team has held weekly briefings since he was elected president.