In a historic move, US President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have named seven women to run the White House communications team.
“Communicating directly and truthfully to the American people is one of the most important duties of a President, and this team will be entrusted with the tremendous responsibility of connecting the American people to the White House. I am proud to announce today the first senior White House communications team comprised entirely of women. These qualified, experienced communicators bring diverse perspectives to their work and a shared commitment to building this country back better,” Biden said in a statement.
Harris said the significance of an all-women team was important. The seven women, including two openly gay people, also have experience of working in government and all have ties to Biden.
“Our country is facing unprecedented challenges – from the coronavirus pandemic to the economic crisis, to the climate crisis, and a long-overdue reckoning over racial injustice,” she said. “To overcome these challenges, we need to communicate clearly, honestly, and transparently with the American people, and this experienced, talented, and barrier-shattering team will help us do that. These communications professionals express our commitment to building a White House that reflects the very best of our nation.”
Jen Psaki worked as President Barack Obama’s White House Communications Director and will be Biden’s White House Press Secretary. Kate Bedingfield served as Biden’s 2020 campaign Communications Director and will have the same role in the White House. Symone Sanders, a Senior Advisor on Biden’s presidential campaign, will be Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson for Harris.
The seven women are:
Elizabeth E Alexander, Communications Director for the First Lady Jill Biden
Alexander, a graduate of Texas A&M University and Georgetown University Law Centre, was Senior Advisor on the Biden-Harris 20202 Presidential Campaign. She was Press Secretary to then Vice President Biden in the Obama administration and Communications Director to then Senator Biden.
She has worked as a federal prosecutor in the US Attorneys’ offices in Washington, DC and Alexandria, Virginia, where she also served as a counsellor to the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Previously, Alexander worked as Press Secretary for the United Nations Foundation, Press Secretary to Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, Communications Director for Member of Congress Adam Schiff and Deputy Press Secretary for Senator Chuck Schumer. Before joining the Biden-Harris campaign, Alexander was a Senior Managing Director at FTI Consulting, where she led the firm’s gender inclusion and workplace equality communications offering.
Kate Bedingfield, White House Communications Director
Bedingfield, a graduate of the University of Virginia, was the Deputy Campaign Manager and Communications Director for the Biden-Harris 2020 Presidential Campaign. She was Communications Director for then Vice-President Biden and as Associate Communications Director, Deputy Director of Media Affairs, and the Director of Response in the Obama-Biden White House. Previously, Bedingfield served as Communications Director to US Senator Jeanne Shaheen on her successful 2008 Senate campaign, Deputy National Press Secretary on the John Edwards for President campaign and Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 when Democrats won back the House.
Bedingfield has also served as the Chief Spokeswoman and Vice President of Corporate Communications at the Motion Picture Association of America and as the Vice President of Communications at Monumental Sports & Entertainment.
I’m unspeakably proud to have the opportunity to serve as White House Communications Director for @joebiden. Working for him as VP and on this campaign gave me insight into what kind of capable, compassionate, clear-eyed president he will be and it will be a profound honor to 1/
— Kate Bedingfield (@KBeds) November 29, 2020
Ashley Etienne, Communications Director to Vice President Kamala Harris
Etienne, a graduate of Sam Houston State University and Johns Hopkins University, was a Senior Advisor on the Biden-Harris 2020 Presidential Campaign. Previously, Etienne served as Communications Director and Senior Advisor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman and person of colour to hold the position. Etienne was Special Assistant to the President and Director of Communications for the Cabinet in the Obama-Biden administration and also led communications on President Obama’s signature My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
Prior to the Obama-Biden administration, she served as Deputy Communications Director and Spokesperson for then-House Democratic Leader Pelosi, Communications Director for House Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Spokesperson for the Corporation for National and Community Service, and as a Spokesperson in Virginia for the Obama-Biden Campaign in 2008. Etienne has provided strategic counsel to clients while at Dewey Square Group and as president of her own consulting firm, Etienne & Associates.
Karine Jean-Pierre, Principal Deputy Press Secretary
Jean-Pierre, a graduate of Columbia University, was Senior Advisor to Biden and Harris on the Biden-Harris 2020 Presidential Campaign. Prior to her role on the 2020 campaign, she served as Chief Public Affairs Officer for MoveOn.org and an NBC and MSNBC Political Analyst. Jean-Pierre served as Regional Political Director for the White House Office of Political Affairs during the Obama-Biden administration and as Deputy Battleground States Director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign. She served as Southeast Regional Political Director for President Obama’s 2008 campaign, Deputy Campaign Manager for Martin O’Malley for President, Campaign Manager for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Initiative, and Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Legislative and Budget Affairs for two members in the New York City Council.
Previously, she worked at the Centre for Community and Corporate Ethics, pushing major companies to change their business practices.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary
Psaki, a graduate of the College of William and Mary, oversees the confirmations team for the Biden-Harris Transition. During the Obama-Biden administration, Psaki held several senior roles, including White House Communications Director, State Department Spokesperson under then-Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy White House Communications Director and Deputy White House Press Secretary during the financial crisis. She is a veteran of three presidential campaigns having served as travelling press secretary during the Obama-Biden campaign in 2008, as travelling press secretary and senior advisor in 2012 and as deputy press secretary for John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004. Psaki was a spokesperson at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 when Democrats won back the House of Representatives and has also served as Communications Director to former Member of Congress Joe Crowley.
Prior to joining the Biden-Harris Transition Team, Psaki was the Vice President for Communications and Strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a CNN contributor.
Symone Sanders, Senior Advisor and Chief Spokesperson for the Vice President
Sanders, a graduate of Creighton University, was a Senior Advisor on the Biden-Harris 2020 presidential campaign. In 2016, she became the youngest presidential press secretary on US Senator Bernie Sanders’s then-presidential campaign.
Before joining the Biden-Harris 2020 presidential campaign, Sanders was a CNN political commentator and served as principal of the 360 Group LLC, where she provided strategic communications guidance to organisations, businesses, individuals, campaigns and candidates.
Pili Tobar, Deputy White House Communications Director
Tobar, a graduate of the University of Miami, was the Communications Director for Coalitions on the Biden-Harris 2020 Presidential Campaign.
Before joining the campaign, Tobar served as the Deputy Director for America’s Voice, where she advocated on behalf of immigrants. She has also served as the Hispanic Media Director for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, National Director of Hispanic Media and Western Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee, Communications Director for Congressman Ruben Gallego, and Communications Director for the Latino Victory Project.
Jean-Pierre and Tobar aren’t the first openly gay people to work as White House communications staff. In the Trump White House, Judd Deere has been serving as White House Deputy Press Secretary. During the Obama years, Eric Schulz was also White House Deputy Press Secretary and was the first openly gay person to conduct an on-camera news conference from the White House briefing room.