Making up history with the Biden White House

28 May 2021

3:06 AM

28 May 2021

3:06 AM

Journalists gleefully declared on Wednesday that the Biden administration was ‘making history’ by sending White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to the podium to lead a press briefing. They were only half right.

Jean-Pierre was indeed the first openly gay woman to lead a White House press briefing. The press corps, however, seemed much more interested in her skin color than her sexual orientation.

‘.@KJP46 making history as the second Black woman to ever lead a White House press briefing,’ CBS News’s Weijia Jiang tweeted.

‘White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will make history when she steps behind the podium in the James S. Brady Briefing Room in a few minutes, becoming just the second black woman to lead a White House press briefing,’ PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor confirmed.

‘Your presence here is making history. You are the first black woman to stand behind that podium speaking on behalf of the president in 30 years,’ ABC News’s Mary Bruce said during the briefing. ‘Just wondering if you could share your reflections with us.’

Jean-Pierre replied, ‘I appreciate the historic nature, I really do.’

Wait a second! Since when is it ‘historic’ to be the second person to do anything? What about the third person, or the fourth? Do they get the honor of ‘making history’ too? Or, as Cockburn suspects, is this just pandering nonsense?

It became even more clear why mainstream reporters were so desperate to elevate Jean-Pierre to history-maker status once Cockburn did some research. Judy Smith was the first black woman to take the podium in 1991 — 30 years ago, well before the left became obsessed with identity politics. And she was — gasp! — a Republican who served under George H.W. Bush. God forbid one of those evil right wingers be credited with a diversity milestone.

The Biden administration does have a history…of constantly inflating its levels of diversity. The administration planted stories gloating over the ‘all-female senior communications team’, led by Jen Psaki, the first ginger press secretary (OK, they didn’t push out that line but they should have). These stories failed to mention that the Trump White House staffed women in all of its top communications roles: White House press secretary, communications director, spokeswoman and chief of staff for First Lady Melania Trump, communications director for Vice President Mike Pence, and communications director for Second Lady Karen Pence.

The media got selective amnesia again when they erroneously claimed that transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg was the first openly gay cabinet member. The Trump administration’s Ric Grenell gets that honor after serving as the acting director of national intelligence. Multiple news agencies had to correct their assertions, clarifying that Buttigieg was the first openly gay cabinet member to be confirmed by the Senate. 

Cockburn imagines it would be much easier if the Biden White House celebrated its staff on merit rather than desperately filling imaginary diversity quotas. It would save them the embarrassment of declaring ‘historic’ that which has already been done — and by their political opponents, no less.

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