Chief of Staff of Biden’s press office follows Psaki out the door: Amanda Finney leaves the White House for the energy department – 24 hours after report suggested there was a White House ‘Blaxit’
- Chief of Staff for President Biden’s press office Amanda Finney is departing the west wing amid reports of a ‘Black staffer exodus’ from the White House
- Finney’s departure comes just weeks after former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki left her post
- The White House is preparing for a big shake up in the press office amid a string of recent and impending exits
- The west wing is having a hard time holding onto black staffers, with some dubbing the recent departure of 21 black White House employees a ‘Blaxit’
- The exodus started in December 2021 with Harris’ chief spokesperson Symone Sanders who landed at MSNBC with her own show
- Her public engagement head Cedric Richmond also departed
- This hit some black staffers particularly hard as they described Richmond as a ‘big brother’, ‘voice of the folks’ and a ‘nucleus’ for black staffers
- Some say the exodus is due to being overworked and under paid, while others claim it’s because there is little support from superiors or room for promotion
Chief of Staff for President Biden’s press office Amanda Finney (pictured) is departing the west wing amid reports of a ‘Black staffer exodus’ from the White House
The White House press office’s chief of staff, Amanda Finney, is departing the West Wing the day after a damning report suggests there is a ‘Blaxit’ where black staff are leaving the administration en masse.
Finney is moving to the Energy Department for a senior communications post there – following her boss White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki‘s departure.
‘Amanda is a brilliant leader whose skills have strengthened our team since the first days of the administration,’ President Joe Biden‘s new Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement to Bloomberg on her departure.
‘We call her ‘Mayor Finney’ for a reason — her passion, dedication and insight drives our team forward and have been critical to our success.’
Jean-Pierre has not yet named anyone to fill Finney’s former role.
Biden’s press shop is facing a big turnover, with a number of junior aides expected to leave in coming weeks for more senior roles in the federal government.
It all follows Psaki’s departure last month.
The turnover comes amid reports of an exodus of black staffers – at least 21, according to a Tuesday report – due to the low prospect for promotion and low pay.
Finney will serve as the deputy director for public affairs at Energy and manage a team of nearly two dozen communication aids for the department.
‘Amanda is simply indispensable and irreplaceable, and I am so grateful that I worked with her by my side every single day during my time as the press secretary,’ Psaki said of Finney. ‘I have no doubt she is going to continue to knock the socks off of everyone she works with in her next chapter.’
Finney’s departure comes just weeks after former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (pictured May 25 on Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show) left her post and the White House prepares for a big shake up in the press office with a string of exits
Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said: ‘She keeps the trains running and juggles the chaos with grace and smarts.’
Nearly two dozen black White House staffers have left the administration since late 2021 or are planning to leave soon due to an unsupportive work environment and little chance for promotion.
One former White House official told Politico in a Tuesday report that the noticeable number of black staffer departures has led to some aides calling it a ‘Blaxit’, or ‘Black Exit’.
‘We’re here and we’re doing a lot of work but we’re not decision-makers and there’s no real path towards becoming decision-makers,’ a current black White House official said, according to the report. ‘There is no real feedback and there’s no clear path to any kind of promotions.’
Another black employee said that low pay is what leads to many minority staffers leaving especially in a city with one of the highest costs of living in the country.
‘The pay in the White House is not traditionally very good and a lot of Black folks in these roles don’t come from wealthy families,’ the White House official said.
Entry-level salaries at the White House start at $48,000.
The first notable exit from this ‘Blaxit’ movement came in December 2021 when Vice President Kamala Harris’ chief spokesperson Symone Sanders announced she was leaving. She landed at MSNBC where her self-titled show is debuting deuted on May 7.
In the weeks and months following into early 2022, Harris senior aides Tina Flournoy, Ashley Etienne, and Vincent Evans all departed – as well as her public engagement head Cedric Richmond.
Including those departures starting late last year, now at least 21 black staffers have either left the White House or are planning to in coming weeks and months.
The White House is having a hard time holding onto black staffers, with some dubbing the recent departure of 21 black White House employees a ‘Blaxit.’ Pictured: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, Monday, May 30
The exodus started in December 2021 with Harris’ chief spokesperson Symone Sanders (left) who landed at MSNBC with her own show. Her public engagement head Cedric Richmond (right) also departed, which hit some black staffers particularly hard as they described Richmond as a ‘big brother’, ‘voice of the folks’ and a ‘nucleus’ for black staffers
Black staffers who have left the White House in the last five months include public engagement aide Carissa Smith; gender policy aide Kalisha Dessources Figures; National Security Council senior director Linda Etim; digital engagement director Cameron Trimble; and associate counsel Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo.
Departures also include Chief of Staff Ron Klain advisers Elizabeth Wilkins and Niyat Mulughetal; press assistant Natalie Austin; National Economic Council aides Joelle Gamble and Connor Maxwell; and presidential personnel aides Danielle Okai, Reggie Greer and Rayshawn Dyson.
Other black administration staffers who plan to leave in coming weeks include Deputy White House counsel Danielle Conley and Council of Economic Advisers aide Saharra Griffin, according to the Politico report.
Some staffers left on good terms, including for other jobs within the administration and graduate school opportunities, while others said they wanted to refocus after spending years in a tense work environment with little time off or support from superiors.
In the first few weeks and months of 2022, Harris senior aides Tina Flournoy, Ashley Etienne, and Vincent Evans (pictured right) all departed – as well as her public engagement head Cedric Richmond
Harris’ former Chief of Staff Tina Flournoy (left) and her ex-communications director Ashley Etienne both departed the White House after Sanders
‘I worked for both the President and the Vice President during the campaign cycle, and considered the chance to serve the American people in the Biden-Harris White House nothing short of an honor,’ Austin said on her departure.
‘I loved my experience on the press team, and left because I wanted a chance to spend more time with family after nearly three years straight of campaigns and government work.’
Many black White House staffers said Richmond’s departure was particularly difficult for them.
They described the former Harris aide as a ‘big brother’, ‘voice of the folks’ and a ‘nucleus’ for black staffers. His departure, they added, has left people ‘a little nervous’.
‘They brought in a ton of Black people generally to start without ever establishing an infrastructure to retain them or help them be successful,’ a black White House official said. ‘If there is no clear infrastructure of how to be successful, you become just as invisible in this space than you would be if you were not in it.’
Richmond, now a senior adviser at the Democratic National Committee, told Politico that the White House gave young Black staffers more responsibility than other administrations and that many leaving were doing so for jobs with higher compensation.
‘A lot of people have been at this grind [for a while] and it’s a hard grind [so] a slowing down of the work pace and a better salary becomes more attractive,’ he said. ‘For young African American staffers who can make these types of salaries, it doesn’t just change their plight but their family’s plight.’
The exodus of black staffers had raised concerns from those who are pushing for diversifications in government offices.
‘I have heard about an exodus of Black staffers from the White House — ‘Blaxit’ — and I am concerned,’ president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Spencer Overton said to Politico.
Recently, Karine Jean-Pierre (pictured on May 26, 2022) took over from Jen Psaki as White House press secretary – she is the first black and LGBTQ person to serve in this position
The president of the group, which tracks staff diversity numbers in government, added: ‘Black voters accounted for 22 percent of President Biden’s voters in November 2020.’
‘It is essential that Black staffers are not only recruited to serve in senior, mid-level and junior White House positions, but are also included in major policy and personnel decisions and have opportunities for advancement.’
One White House official pushed back on criticism, claiming that 14 percent of current Biden and Harris staffers at are black, which is in line with the 13.4 percent black population of America.
Biden’s new Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: ‘The president is incredibly proud to have built what continues to be the most diverse White House staff in history, and he is committed to continuing historic representation for Black staff and all communities.’
‘This is a normal time for turnover across the board in any administration and Black staff have been promoted at a higher rate than staff who are not diverse,’ she added.