President-elect Joe Biden proudly has announced that his White House senior communications team will be “filled entirely by women.”
As a woman, I like to see women break barriers and take a seat in what used to be men’s clubs.
But it’s hard to get excited at the notion that Biden’s upper-press operation will be Ladies Only. Men represent some 49 percent of the population, so you’d think there would be a place for at least one of them in the top seven plum spots.
Mayhap Team Biden was finding it hard to come up with “firsts.” Dee Dee Myers, after all, became the first female White House press secretary in 1993 thanks to President Bill Clinton. In 2007, President George W. Bush made Dana Perino the second female press secretary.
President Barack Obama’s press secretaries were entirely men. President Donald Trump apparently prefers spokeswomen. He chose Sarah Sanders to follow Sean Spicer’s short tenure, and then Stephanie Grisham, who never gave a briefing, and then current Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
So having Jen Psaki as Biden press secretary and Kate Bedingfield as communications director is hardly groundbreaking. By adding communications directors, spokespersons, and deputies for the president-elect, first lady, and vice president, Team Joe baked the all-women team.
Psaki noted that her team includes mothers of young children, which makes her the third press secretary/mother of a young child after Sanders and McEnany.
McEnany took umbrage with a Washington Post story on Biden’s distaff press shop. Trump, she tweeted, “already has an ALL FEMALE Senior White House Press Team,” citing herself, Communications Director Alyssa Farah and communications pros who work for the vice president and the first and second ladies.
McEnany was on to a media double standard. Top female staffers are hailed as trailblazers when they are Democrats but dismissed as Stepford Wives when they are Republicans. Perino recently offered that conservative women know they “aren’t going to get the glowing profiles.”
For her troubles, McEnany was schooled by New York Times ace Maggie Haberman, who suggested principal deputy press secretary Judd Deere and spokesman Brian Morgenstern might not like McEnany’s tweet. Message: McEnany, a Harvard Law School graduate who studied at Oxford, can’t set her own definition of who is senior staff. She’s supposed to stick to the Biden version.
“If Kayleigh McEnany and Alyssa Farah were Democratic women, they would be on the cover page of Vanity Fair or Vogue,” assistant press secretary Karoline Leavitt told me. Ditto the first lady.
Friends expect Biden briefings to be boring affairs — which would make them like the former vice president’s rare and brief press availabilities. Staff, not Biden, choose which reporters are graced with the opportunity to toss softballs at the future president. Obviously, the Biden press corps sees little upside in pressing Biden. Often their questions focus not on Biden but on Trump’s bad-boy antics.
Perhaps for a change in pace someone can ask Psaki to pass the Grey Poupon.
Like Trump, the cantankerous Biden has been known to insult reporters who ask him tough questions. When Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked Biden how many times he talked to his son Hunter about his son’s overseas business dealings, Biden snapped that Doocy, who has covered Biden for his network, should ask Trump that question.
When CBS News reporter Bo Erickson asked Biden if he would encourage teachers’ unions to reopen schools, Biden knocked him as “the only guy that always shouts out questions.” (Sad.) When another interviewer asked Biden if he would take a cognitive test, Biden asked the interviewer if he was a junkie.
In other words, meet the new boss, same as the old boss. As for the press team, it will be A League of Their Own: The Sequel.
Contact Debra J. Saunders at email@example.com or 202-662-7391. Follow @DebraJSaunders on Twitter.
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