In a glowing feature article published Monday, Vogue described White House press secretary Jen Psaki as warm, humorous, intelligent, and edgy. But one thing reporter Lizzie Widdicombe didn't call her was "nice" — and it's a good thing she didn't. That's not a descriptive word Psaki is particularly fond of. In fact, she thinks it's sexist.
Widdicombe described Psaki's first press briefing as one that earned a "collective swoon" from reporters. A reception "largely due to what she was not doing: berating the assembled reporters, griping about CNN's coverage of a presidential tweet, or spouting flagrant, easily disprovable lies."
"She had a mixture of warmth, humor, intelligence, and edge," Widdicombe said of the Biden official.
But lest any readers start to think of her as a "pushover," the article made sure to include ample descriptions of Psaki's toughness and resolve. Former colleague David Axelrod noted that she is "unflappable" and "has a steel rod for a spine."
One such example apparently occurred at the White House recently when someone introducing Psaki to a foreign delegation made the horrible mistake of describing her as "a really nice person."
She tells me that she hates when people describe her as "nice." "It is like nails on a chalkboard," she says. "And it still happens. I was introduced to a foreign delegation in the hallway the other day as 'This is Jen. You may have seen her do the briefings. She's a really nice person.' I'm like, Really? You can't think of a better description?" The word is sexist and a little diminishing, but, she says, "it's also this desire to put people in a box. Yes, sometimes I'm friendly and joyful, and sometimes I'm tough, and sometimes I'm straightforward." After shadowing Psaki for a bit, I start to think that her real gift is her ability to be several of these things at the same time. Many of her cheerful quips are actually ways of shutting down a line of questioning. When there's information the administration is not ready to share yet, she'll respond with a chipper "Stay tuned!" or "Buckle up!" Or she'll brush aside questions about tense dealmaking by chirping, "Democracy in action!"
Hot Air writer Karen Townsend, in her coverage of the Vogue article, notes that "most people would appreciate the description" since "it's a personal acknowledgment, not a comment on her professional abilities" nor a "dismissive remark."
But not to Psaki, who reportedly thinks being called "nice" is restrictive, sexist, and diminishing. It's a wonder what she thinks of "sweet" or "kind."