Two-thirds of Biden’s press shop have left in the spaces of weeks


The White House great resignation: Two-thirds of Biden’s press shop have left in the spaces of weeks because of low morale, long hours and low pay

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki left her position in May
  • Successor Karine Jean-Pierre has announced a series of staff departures
  • She publicly lauded West Wing ‘mayor’ Amanda Finney
  • Also noted departures of aides Vedant Patel, Michael Gwin, and Michael Kikukawa 
  • ‘I promise we will have a press shop,’ she joked 

May and June have seen an extraordinary accumulation of departures from the White House press shop – at a time when President Joe Biden is trying to retool his message with road trips amid sagging approval ratings.

The departures have come up and down the ladder among people tasked with pitching Biden’s policies, coordinating the covid response, and handling the mechanics of the president’s mobile messaging operation.

New White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made light of the turnover in comments at the White House this week – as she once again took to the podium to publicly praise well-regarded departing mid-level staffers.

‘I promise we will have a press shop.’ She quipped. ‘Not everyone is leaving.’ 

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has announced a series of staff departures in recent weeks

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has announced a series of staff departures in recent weeks

Some of the turnover coincided with the departure of Jean-Pierre’s predecessor, Jen Psaki.

Some of the departures amount to steps up substantively – even if the aides will soon miss out on some of the thrill of being inside the presidential bubble. 

Jean-Pierre broke the latest staff news as a ‘sad note,’ announcing that White House rapid response director Mike Gwin on the way out the door to join the Treasury Department. She called him an ‘indispensable’ part of the team.

‘I know he’s moving on to bigger and better things, and only wish him the best at Treasury,’ she said.

Staff departures announced since Jen Psaki’s May 13 exit 

Amanda Finney, Chief of Staff for President Biden’s press office, June 3

Vedant Patel, assistant White House press secretary, June 2

Michael Gwin, White House Director of Rapid Response, June 7

Michael Kikukawa, Press assistant, June 7 

 

 

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She also noted that Michael Kikukawa will leave the White House press shop as a press assistant to serve as a spokesman at Treasury. She hailed him as ‘the strong engine and reliable engine at the press shop,’ and pointed to his ‘relentless work ethic and dedication to the mission of this team have been second to none’ – a role he sometimes filled shepherding reporters who follow the president. 

Jean-Pierre called it ‘very heart-wrenching, but I’m very excited for both of you.’ 

Days earlier, she announced that Vedant Patel, just back from the President’s trip to South Korea and Japan, was leaving to become deputy spokesperson at the State Department. 

‘I cannot stress enough how integral Vedant has been to our team. He’s been a rockstar. He’s going to be incredibly missed. He is a true talent, an excellent communicator, a gifted writer, and a wonderful coworker and friend,’ she said.

‘I and the rest of the press team will miss him dearly, but we know that he’s on to better and bigger things as he moves over to the State Department – so he’s not going very far – as the Principal Deputy Spokesperson,’ she said.

On June 2, Jean-Pierre sang the praises of another departing staffer, Amanda Finney, whom she hailed as the unofficial ‘Mayor of the West Wing.’ She announced Finney was leaving to join the Energy Department, where she will be deputy director of public affairs. 

Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki left and took a job with MSNBC

Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki left and took a job with MSNBC

The departures come as Biden struggles to retool his messaging

The departures come as Biden struggles to retool his messaging

The White House departures have grown to include two-thirds of the press shop, according to AP's count

The White House departures have grown to include two-thirds of the press shop, according to AP’s count 

The White House staff turmoil follows a steady departure of aides to Vice President Kamala Harris, plus griping about a ‘Blaxit’ of departing African American staffers, with a count of departing African American staffers reaching 20 since late 2021.

More than a dozen top aides leaving Harris’ office, amid complaints about inter-office tensions. They began with departures of high profile figures including senior advisor Symone Sanders. 

The White House departures have grown to include two-thirds of the press shop, as well as considerable departures from the White House COVID response team, as well as digital staffers, the Associated Press reported.

That account put the departures in the context of the ‘great resignation,’ where people across the economy have been finding new things to do since the pandemic hit. 

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

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 

White House jobs have long been prestigious, and provide avenues to other work either in government or in the private sector.

Average salaries in the Executive Office of the President run over $90,000 – but lower level press aides often make less, and must turn in extremely long hours, and must keep scrolling through their cell phones long into the night.  

Some of the perks of the job – face time with the president, access to VIP events, watching Marine One take off, have been scaled back amid the pandemic.

Aides who have access to the president are limited and are usually masked. 

It is not unusual for there to be a spate of turnover in a White House staff after a year or 18-months, although these latest departures are coinciding with Psaki’s departure and decision to take a job with MSNBC. 

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