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Karine Jean-Pierre breaks barrier as first Haitian woman named White House press secretary

Karine Jean-Pierre
Haitian American Karine Jean-Pierre has been appointed to the position of White House press secretary in the Biden administration. / Photo Credit: Travis W Keyes Photography

President Joe Biden announced earlier today Haitian-born Jean-Pierre will be the first Black and openly gay woman in the executive senior position. 

Jean-Pierre will replace existing White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, who is leaving the administration for the private sector. 

In a statement from President Biden, he said, “Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people.”

Jean-Pierre, 44, was born in Haiti and immigrated with her parents by way of Martinique to the U.S. when she was 5. She grew up in Queens Village, New York. 

At the age of 16, Jean-Pierre came out as a lesbian to her mother, recounted in her memoir, “Moving Forward.” 

She lives with her partner Suzanne Malveaux, the CNN correspondent, and their 6-year-old daughter, Soleil, in the Washington, D.C., area. 

The promotion came as Haitians in the United States are celebrating Haitian Heritage Month with scores of events scheduled this month from Florida to New York and beyond. Haitians had mixed reactions on social media at the news of Jean-Pierre’s promotion.

“I am proud of you. I am glad the President of the United States recognized the worth of a Haitian Mind,” wrote Lea Morisseau on Facebook. “Now this is great news!!” said @fdaccede on Instagram. 

But others posted responses to the Biden presidency or recent policies, “Great news, but still not voting for him if he runs again,” said abcharles79. 

In May 2020, Jean-Pierre joined the Biden-Harris campaign as a senior adviser. Her role was to help build a diverse coalition of voters and whose message revolved around building a stronger, inclusive America.

“This is the most consequential election of our lifetime,” Jean-Pierre told The Haitian Times in an exclusive interview in October 2020. “Everything is on the line ‒ justice, our democracy, our health, our lives.” 

Jean-Pierre made history on May 26, 2021, as the first Black woman in 30 years to stand behind the White House press podium. Judy Smith, who served as deputy press secretary for former President George H.W. Bush, was the first Black woman to do so in 1991.

Jean-Pierre served as deputy press secretary — part of the White House’s senior communications team during Biden’s administration. Jean-Pierre is a familiar face in the press briefing room, occasionally filling in for Psaki, who has described Jean-Pierre as a “remarkable woman” on Twitter

Psaki announced she would leave her role about a year ago. 

Jean-Pierre began her political work in New York City working for city council members. She became a key staff member for the presidential campaigns of John Edwards’ and Barack Obama. Her first position in the White House was as a liaison to the Labor Department and later as regional political director in the White House Office of Political Affairs. 

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