Vogue Gets Weak Knees Over ‘Blunt,’ ‘Realist’ KJP, Who’s Full of ‘Compassion,’ ‘Directness’

September 7th, 2023 1:43 PM

On Thursday, Vogue spilled 3,700-plus words swooning over White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre like millennials screaming at a Taylor Swift concert in a puff piece so nauseously pathetic it’d make the lady in North Korea or those who toil away at, say, China Daily blush.

Partnered with model shoot from Norman Jean Joy, writer Mattie Kahn gushed over Jean-Pierre as “a realist,” woman of “history” as the first black woman and gay person to helm the White House Briefing Room, embodying the “memes about elder sisters,” and possessing a “quality of directness—blunt, with a touch of compassion.”

The headline screamed state-run TV: “White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Has Made History—And Waves.”

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR) Communications Director Alexa Henning said it best: “I know a few women who made history in the White House that didn’t get Vogue profiles … [Sarah Huckabee Sanders] first working mother to serve as press secretary and [Kellyanne Conway] first woman to have run a successful U.S. presidential campaign.”

Kahn began with a claim that Jean-Pierre helping to take down a protester at a June 2019 forum for Democratic presidential candidates was something she’ll be remembered for most, adding Jean-Pierre’s “a realist” who brings “blunt[ness],” “compassion” and “directness” as her “currency at the briefing podium.”

Has Kahn even watched a briefing? Jean-Pierre not only refuses to answer questions, but she fails to show a basic grasp of the English language.

After cheering her false conjunction fallacy of PPP loans and student loan debt, Kahn proclaimed that “Biden has emphasized to Jean-Pierre that when she speaks, her audience is as much the American people as it is the press corps”.

Following nearly seven mammoth paragraphs about Jean-Pierre’s globe-trotting upbringing, schooling, and mental health struggles stemming from physical abuse, Kahn eventually admitted “Jean-Pierre came to understand politics as a remedy” after initially studying environmentalism and attempting pre-med. 

Having met her on John Edwards’s 2008 campaign, Jen O’Malley Dillon fretted “there weren’t as many women leaders and there certainly weren’t women of color at the level that Karine is at now.”

And Kahn went to Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett (and mother of NBC correspondent Laura Jarrett), who boasted that “she’s prepared her entire career for the moment she’s in right now.”

Kahn salivated at Jean-Pierre’s supposed morning routine (click “expand”):

These days, Jean-Pierre wakes up around 5 a.m. Her emails to me have pre-sunrise timestamps. “I’m not disciplined at all,” Jean-Pierre says. About balance, she means. She’s quite disciplined about work, from which she allows few distractions.

Jean-Pierre does not watch television. When she reads books, it’s bedtime stories. (Jean-Pierre shares her daughter, Soleil, with former CNN national correspondent Suzanne -Malveaux. It was Malveaux who initiated the adoption process, not long after she and Jean-Pierre started dating. Now Soleil is nine, and Jean-Pierre’s mother has become a doting, obsessive grandparent.) Jean-Pierre does like musicals, and she and Soleil have taken in The Lion King, Wicked, and Once Upon a One More Time. She still runs when she can, and after three miles, her mind starts to clear.

Acknowledging that a nanny helps make the breakneck schedule possible, Jean-Pierre tells me she pulls into the White House at 7 a.m. Her first in person meeting is at 8:15 a.m., which Jeff Zients, White House chief of staff, hosts in his office. Jean-Pierre sits to one side. And when she speaks, he swivels. “While she’s humble, she’s got confidence in views that might sometimes run against where the team is heading,” he says. “I always pause because she’s probably onto something.”

A little after 9 a.m., Jean-Pierre settles behind her semicircular desk in the West Wing. Soleil is responsible for much of her office decor: a framed letter (“You are the best mom in the world”), a pink wood-block animal figurine (of indeterminate genus), and a doodle near two framed photos—one of Jean-Pierre with President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden, and one of her with President Obama.

From her perch, Jean-Pierre can see four TV screens broadcasting news networks. More shelves hold stacks of books, from bestsellers like Angela Duckworth’s Grit and Adam Grant’s Originals to Horse Barbie, Geena -Rocero’s memoir of growing up as a trans pageant queen in the Philippines. Rocero inscribed it to Jean-Pierre during a visit to the White House.

The description of her desk grew even more eye-rolling in nature: “There are memes about eldest sisters, and then there are the women who live them. Jean-Pierre is so organized her pens have their own coral pouch. A thin film keeps her Dell monitor pristine. Visible disorder in her office is limited to drooping flowers on a side table.”

“Best of luck to would-be blackmailers: Jean-Pierre doesn’t drink coffee or alcohol. Psaki calls her viceless. Her snack is roasted seaweed or a morning banana smoothie made al-desko with a gadget called the BlendJet,” Kahn later added.

Take note, Interfax and Russia Today stenographers — this is how it’s done!

Kahn rushed to Jean-Pierre’s defense that she spends much of her briefing looking down and reading from her binder. Short answer? She cares so much and wants to be prepared (click “expand”):

When I arrive, staffers have already started to filter in and out of her office in an exercise her team calls “prep,” but which is better characterized as a mix of college office hours and Talmudic exegesis.

Together with aides, Jean-Pierre takes stock of the latest economic signals, the status of the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court, and reports of extreme heat across the country—all with an eye toward fielding questions later that day. Some in the press corps have complained that Jean-Pierre reads too much from her binder—that she sounds rehearsed. That is because she rehearses. In prep, she chooses adjectives and verbs with fastidious care. Is defend the right word to describe Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s stance on education standards that seem to celebrate the skills that enslaved people learned in bondage? Or perhaps it’s more accurate—and more pointed—to put it like this: It demonstrates a lack of leadership. It’s an insult.

The team has drafted a statement on the issue, if Jean-Pierre is open to it. Like all updates to her binder, it is printed and hole-punched. (She dreams of a briefing iPad.) No office in America relies on hole punchers like this one does. In the event of a national confetti shortage, White House hole punchers can be requisitioned to release strategic reserves.

Before reporting Jean-Pierre never had to interview for the top job, Kahn made sure to give some love to Jen Psaki, celebrating the fact that “[t]he two were so close that Psaki got them matching leather briefing books, which Jean-Pierre christened ‘Ebony’ and ‘Ivory.’”

Fox’s Peter Doocy didn’t get a nod, but Kahn did allude to “Jean-Pierre...get[ting] a lot of criticism, especially in the beginning” that the press “sniped about Jean-Pierre’s recitation of talking points and expressed genuine exasperation about her perceived stonewalling on basic questions” when, in reality, she “can only say as much as the White House counsel allows her to.”

Again, we ask: Has Kahn actually watched a briefing? Or two?

This could have been done if Vogue had profiled working women in the Trump White House, but Kahn made this seem novel with Jean-Pierre and motherhood leading to one being “more motivated” at work despite “fairly ruthless, sometimes frightening treatment on social media”.

“She has champions outside the White House too. When a group of Black women came to see Harris not long ago, one of them sought out Jean-Pierre to say that ‘there are millions of us who want you to succeed. There are, of course, also millions who don not,” Kahn added.

Buried in this section? Jean-Pierre and former longtime CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux have separated (click “expand”):     

“People who love me are concerned,” she admits. “But I do not walk around fearful for my life or my security. That is not something I worry about. I worry more for my daughter.”

The afternoon that I visit, Jean-Pierre leaves work earlier than usual to take Soleil to a local pool. It’s clear that this is all a juggle, and it has gotten more challenging lately. Jean-Pierre and Malveaux have separated. “I’m a single mom who is co-parenting this amazing kid,” Jean-Pierre says. “Our number-one priority is her privacy and to make sure we create an environment that’s nurturing.”

She and I drive through leafy suburbs and arrive in the still humid evening, as Jean-Pierre continues the conversation poolside. She nods toward Soleil, who is splashing in a sequined bathing suit. “We talk about her feelings all the time,” she says. “I ask her all the time, ‘Are you happy? How’s it going?’ And she’ll tell me.” Open communication is something Jean-Pierre is committed to. “That’s the nice part—being the parent that you wish you had,” she says. “My parents were amazing, but they were trying to survive.”

She never expected to be in this situation—mothering. Having a child was “a thousand percent” not on her to-do list. She spent so much of her own childhood helping to raise her siblings. Her work was a bid for freedom. “I think that’s one of the reasons I left to do campaigns,” Jean-Pierre says. “Because it took me away from the responsibilities of home.”

But it turns out being a parent has only made her more motivated. “Everything that we do, being led by the president, is going to matter, not just today, but tomorrow and for the rest of our lives,” she says. “What we do is certainly going to change the trajectory of her life.”

Kahn saved another syringe of fluff for the end about Jean-Pierre’s mother being embraced by President Biden at a state dinner and, afterward, she told her famous daughter that it “was the happiest day of my life.”