The White House Press Office has long been a reliable path to a television news career. There are currently five hosts who have previously worked there and President Biden’s former press secretary, Jen Psaki, joins their ranks Sunday when her weekly hour-long show debuts at 9 p.m. Pacific on MSNBC.
Psaki, who previously worked as Secretary of State for former Presidents Obama and John Kerry, has spent enough hours on camera to be a familiar face to news viewers. But “Inside With Jen Psaki” will still be something of an introduction.
“For the first time in her career, she can truly speak for herself,” said Rebecca Kutler, MSNBC’s senior vice president of content strategy. “It will be a great opportunity for the audience to get to know Jen.”
Inside With Jen Psaki will transcend the traditional TV platform. It will be streamable on Peacock after it airs on MSNBC, along with a second installment running exclusively on the service. Psaki will also take over MSNBC’s flagship newsletter on Saturdays and have an additional show on YouTube later this year.
In a recent interview, Psaki, 44, shared some thoughts on her career and her next phase.
MSNBC is aimed at a politically progressive audience. But many people who still watch TV are looking for a more direct discussion of the news. Will you consider it an opinion show or more of a low-end news show?
I’m thinking more about it as I’m going for option C which is an informed show. I’ve worked for Democratic politicians for 20 years, including two Democratic Presidents. I’m not going to pretend I didn’t work on these campaigns, sit in the war room or on the campaign bus. That wouldn’t be very helpful to viewers. Nor will I pretend that I think I haven’t long supported a woman’s right to vote or the ability of people to marry whoever they want or be whoever they want, because that wouldn’t be authentic.
But I also think that at times we have strayed from what I would call healthy discussions and debates on a range of issues. And I will certainly invite a number of Republicans onto the show to debate with them. If they say something that is wrong or inaccurate, I will point it out. But I also think my experience in government is having these discussions as a healthy part of the debate.
What was the politics like in Stamford, Connecticut, where you grew up?
I grew up in a sort of split household where my mother voted for every Democrat no matter who they were. My father was a Northeast Republican, not on social issues, more on fiscal issues. He’s a born-again progressive. He’s 80 now, so he became a Democrat in his late 50s or early 60s. But growing up, one of my first political memories was of my father saying to my mother, “You are the only person in the country who voted Walter Mondale.” And I was like 6 or 5 at the time and I was like, ‘Mom, man, are you the only person?’
In your previous job, you were known for being calm and steady in the White House briefing room. Is there something in your habits that keeps you this way? is it yoga Diet? Jesus Christ?
My sister is an ordained Unitarian priest, so I wish I could say that it was my connection to my faith that I needed to work on more. But I’d say when people are freaking out and there’s complete chaos all around me, my instinctive reaction is to stay calm because I don’t want to get caught up in the chaos.
There are many universities and colleges in DC. So if I met college students on the street, they would ask me, “What do you think in your head when so-and-so asks you a crazy question?” And I would say, “Sometimes I think I’m an orderly in a mental institution. And if I speak slowly and calmly, everyone will calm down.” I have a bit of an Irish temper in me sometimes, you can tell. But I also think one of my first conversations with the President on this job was about the need to restore calm and stability.
I was told by a friend of yours – a seasoned veteran of the media business – that you may be too “normal” to be on TV. She said you’re not needy. No self-promoter. Not selfish. Is she right?
Well that’s a huge compliment and my mother if she reads this story what she’s going to do would love what’s in it the most. My mother is a family therapist who grew up in Queens, New York and always says that everything has its roots in Queens. She says, “That’s where you get your courage and your character,” although I didn’t grow up there. It didn’t matter what job I’ve ever had, if she ever saw me getting too big for my pants, or talking down to people, or not treating people with worth and respect, that was what would disappoint her most deeply. She wouldn’t care if I had a big job. I always think, “What would my mom think?” about anything that’s going on, and that’s a big reason for me.
Do you think President Biden was punished for not being entertaining enough as President? Has Donald Trump skewed the public’s perception of what a presidential capability should be?
There were people – never on record – who said, “It’s boring,” or “Ugh, so much politics and paper and briefing calls.” And my response to that was always a little bit like, “Well, if you’re not on briefing papers and background calls and the policies that are going to impact people’s lives, you may need to cover something else.” But the truth is, the vast majority of White House reporters loved returning to politics.
your exchange with Fox News White House Correspondent Peter Doocy were legendary. Stay in contact?
I like Peter very much. We had a good relationship. We had a lot of fun and sometimes heated back and forth in the meeting room. That’s healthy in a democracy. Peter and I also had many conversations in my office on a variety of subjects. I always found him professional.
Well, what do you think of what we at Fox News have seen in the court filings over the past few weeks Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against the net? There has been a lot of talk internally about helping Republican candidates. Will it affect the way Democrats deal with Fox News in the future?
I don’t think there is a simple answer. The challenge, at least for now, is that it doesn’t hurt [Fox News] so much. If Democrats are off the air, what do they care? As far as I can tell, that’s not a big part of their business model. At the same time, Fox has a huge viewer base, including a number of Democrats. I appeared up “Fox News Sunday” more than any other Sunday program when I was in the White House as press secretary because I felt it was important to have a voice there. There are guys like Pete Buttigieg and certainly others who have been pretty effective at Fox. And I don’t know that it’s exactly right to say that no one should do that anymore. You give up a huge landscape.
So who came up with the name of the show? And what does it say to the viewer?
It was a group effort. I wanted it to say something beyond my name about what we were trying to do. I think the hope is that somehow we’re going to bring people into the space by having people that I know or have known in government in the past to really talk about it and go deep into the issues that bring people in into the lives of politicians and people you see in public and show you a different side. That’s what people will take away from the show.
What do you bring to this role that we don’t already know about you?
A tremendous curiosity about many things happening in the world – whether it’s about what the heck is happening in China, how exactly the war in Ukraine will end, how all these Senate races will end up, who it will be the Republican nominee? And even things that people don’t know about me. I’m a mom, obviously. I’m also obsessed with the Olympics. I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan. So I’m curious about a thousand things.
The best advice I got was to make it a conversation. And the second part of that, which is maybe more important, is listening to what people are saying and acting on it, and not being so stuck about what your plan is for the show that you’re not taking the conversation to the most interesting place .
You are a Bengals fan. I have a feeling a Joe Burrow booking might be on the horizon.
Oh my god, this is the dream. My in-laws said if he ever came to this show they would all come for the interview so I said that was fine.
Has it already been discussed?
Yes, he has an open invitation to come. Or we come to him.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.
Source : news.yahoo.com