Sunday on the Fox News Channel’s MediaBuzz, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki joined host Howard Kurtz for an exit interview that, along with the news of the day (abortion and Ukraine), touched on media access to President Biden, rumors about her move to MSNBC, and Twitter being a liberal echo-chamber.
Kurtz ended the first of two blocks by bringing up the fact that reporters are often unable to ask Biden questions:
Let me circle back, to coin a phrase, to the message question. Now I know your standard answer is that Biden takes lots and lots of questions after events, and let’s just agree to disagree that that’s a good level of media access. With the President holding so few news conferences and doing very rarely sit-down interviews, isn’t he surrendering a key part of the bully pulpit?
Psaki insisted he “speaks to the American people nearly every day, sometimes twice a day,” but research from the RNC showed that Biden 19 out of 30 days in April avoiding the press.
She added that the real goal of the President has been “speaking to the public” while also “engaging in and valuing a free press...and speaking out about how we should protect the media.”
Kurtz pushed back by citing Biden’s affinity for hearing himself talk, lamenting that, instead of being constantly out in front of the public, the void “is being filled by Republicans, activists, pundits, bloviators, and doesn’t about that mean he’s often reacting to the news and not driving the news cycle.”
Psaki said she and her team “can’t determine what the media decides to cover, of course, that’s not our role, we’re not in China and Russia here, but...the President can make news.”
Kurtz moved on, but he made clear that “a sustained questioning from a single journalist with follow-ups is not only better for our profession, we always want more access, as you know[.]”
Before the break, Kurtz brought up the White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) and what she made of Daily Show host Trevor Noah quipping that, per Kurtz’s summation, her job “is to make the Biden administration look good at all costs and as a pundit your job will be the same.”
Psaki ducked the question, saying she had “nothing to say about what I’m going to do in the future, aside from it’s now been announced that I will be departing the White House” and she “couldn’t have done my job...if [the administration] didn’t value the role of the press and the media.”
Kurtz continued on that after the break and pressed on her long-rumored departure and MSNBC hiring and whether the stories affected her (click “expand”):
KURTZ: I know you can’t discuss your next job for ethical reasons, but it’s been widely reported, you got a lot of criticism over possible conflicts during this period. Did that both bother you?
PSAKI: Of course, because I’m a human being. But what I know is what I try to do every day, and I hold myself to a very high ethical standard. I took steps and have taken steps, as I’ve had any discussions with any future employer, that go over and above any requirements by government, recusing myself of any discussions as well, and I’m proud of that. And I think and hope, and this is very public in a job like mine —
PSAKI: — people judge me by how I engage and interact with reporters. And I think it has been clear, I’ve treated everybody the same from the beginning, and that has been a point of pride for me.
Kurtz turned to her approach in the Briefing Room, wondering if she’s “deliberately [tried] to lower the temperature” given what was included in that infamous Politico story ahead of the WHCD featuring journalists boast of how “boring” the Biden beat has been to the point that showing feistiness “make[s] you look like an asshole.”
Psaki went back to what she told her friends on Pod Save America, which was that she’s tried to return “credibility...to the job, of showing respect, even people who disagree with us, with him, with the policies of the administration, and, yes, some of that is taking the temperature down in the room” along with making sure to bite your tongue instead of lashing out.
Following a section on how Twitter’s a white, liberal bubble, Kurtz wrapped by asking Psaki to reflect on the job and why she’s leaving (click “expand”):
KURTZ: You recently said that Twitter is very white, very liberal, and very coastal. And you’re right.
PSAKI: That’s a fact, yes.
KURTZ: It distorts reality for everybody, including journalists.
KURTZ: Now, White House press secretary, originally you said you didn’t want the job, but you took it after the campaign, it’s made you something of a celebrity. Is it hard to walk away from this job given that you are a pretty famous spokesperson for the President of the United States?
PSAKI: I mean, of course it’s hard. This is greatest job I’ve ever had, maybe the greatest job I ever have, I don’t know. And it has surpassed my expectations in so many ways in that I’ve learned something new every single day. A lot of that has to do with the policy people I work with and the experts, but a lot of it also has to do with the journalists I interact with and the way they ask questions and what they’re asking about.
KURTZ: So, you’re leaving because?
PSAKI: I’m leaving because I have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-olds. They are the most important people in my life, and my husband, of course. And I always knew that having — having worked in the White House before that this was not a job I could do forever. It is a huge honor to do it no matter where you are in your life. But I don’t want to miss things with my kids, and I don’t want to miss moments or soccer practices or ballet recitals or anything.
To see the relevant FNC transcript from May 8, click here.