White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said she had promised herself not to “get emotional” at her final appearance behind the James Brady Briefing Room lectern, but that promise was quickly broken as she fought back tears just before taking questions from reporters for the 244th and final time.
Ms Psaki, who is reportedly decamping for a role with the MSNBC cable news network, thanked President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden for giving her the honour of serving as the top White House spokesperson during the first 15 months of Mr Biden’s term.
Recalling her first meeting with Mr and Ms Biden after the 2020 election, she said they discussed “the importance of returning integrity, respect and civility to the White House” when engaging with the press.
“I hope I followed the example of integrity and grace that they have set for all of us and do set for all of us every day and I’m incredibly grateful to them,” she said.
The comments appeared to be a tacit rebuke of three of her four Trump-era predecessors — Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kayleigh McEnany — who frequently used the traditional televised press briefings to denigrate the press and attack individual reporters. The fourth, Stephanie Grisham, did not hold a single press briefing during her tenure, which lasted from July 2019 to April 2020.
Though Mr Biden has granted interviews and held press conferences only sparingly, the White House press briefings — which had disappeared by the end of Mr Trump’s term — returned under Ms Psaki and have been held nearly every weekday since Mr Biden was sworn in on 20 January 2021.
Ms Psaki also thanked her colleagues in the White House press office and praised them as “incredibly tough, smart, hardworking, and deeply, deeply good human beings” and “deeply good public servants”.
“People always ask me … about whether Washington is rotten … whether everybody is corrupt here,” she said. “Having done this job, I believe the absolute opposite is true, because I have worked with and engaged with all of these incredible people across the administration and this amazing team”.