Reportedly, there is internal discord between Biden press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council spokesman John Kirby concerning the allocation of responsibilities for their routine media briefings.
Kirby, a former prominent spokesman for the Pentagon and State Department, has seen an increased presence at the podium since the October 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel. He is favored by the president, who frequently requests personal briefings from Kirby. However, Jean-Pierre tightly manages Kirby’s appearances in the briefing room, including the selection of reporters allowed to ask questions.
This situation has led to frustration on Kirby’s part, particularly as Jean-Pierre does not exert the same control when national security adviser Jake Sullivan attends briefings. The awkwardness dates back to the departure of Jen Psaki as White House press secretary in May 2022, shortly before Kirby’s transition from the Pentagon.
When President Biden formally offered Jean-Pierre the role as Psaki’s successor, he mentioned she would be working with Kirby, leading to speculation that this arrangement was perceived as insulting to Jean-Pierre by some black administration members. Kirby has reportedly expressed a desire to become press secretary in the future, though he has not volunteered this ambition. Jean-Pierre has stated her intention to remain in her role at least through this year’s election.
Kirby’s rising prominence is evident as he now accompanies the president on Air Force One during both domestic and international trips, reportedly at the request of senior White House adviser Anita Dunn. The only confrontation regarding this arrangement occurred in September 2022, when Kirby responded to questions about whether he was effectively doing the same job as Jean-Pierre by emphasizing that his appearances were approved by Jean-Pierre and focused on national security issues.
Despite Jean-Pierre and Kirby appearing together in more than 30 press briefings since the outbreak of the Middle East conflict, with Jean-Pierre making a solo appearance only once during that time, a White House official closely working with both individuals claims there is no sign of a rift between them.