Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Jen Psaki is said to be in talks to join MSNBC.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, is in advanced talks with MSNBC to join the network after she leaves the Biden administration, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

Ms. Psaki could leave the White House as soon as next month, one of the people said.

While the details of her role are still being discussed, the negotiations have centered on an arrangement in which she could host shows both for MSNBC and for Peacock, the streaming platform of MSNBC’s parent, NBCUniversal. Ms. Psaki could also make regular appearances on other MSNBC shows as well as on NBC News, the people said.

The route from the West Wing lectern to a network anchor chair is well worn: George Stephanopoulos, for instance, cut his teeth briefing the press on behalf of President Bill Clinton before he worked his way up to chief anchor of ABC News.

But it’s unusual for a White House press secretary to be linked to a news organization before formally leaving their government post. And Ms. Psaki, if she joined MSNBC, would be the network’s second major hire this year from the Biden administration; Vice President Kamala Harris’s former spokeswoman, Symone D. Sanders, is set to host a show for MSNBC and Peacock.

That tension emerged on Friday during Ms. Psaki’s regularly scheduled briefing, where she faced tough questions – including from a potential future colleague – about her possible new job after an Axios report.

From the outset, Ms. Psaki declined to say if she was in talks with MSNBC, saying she had “nothing to confirm about my length of public service or planned service, or anything about consideration about next plans.”

But Kristen Welker, NBC News’ co-chief White House correspondent, pressed her repeatedly on the matter. “How is it ethical to have these conversations with media outlets while you continue to have a job standing behind that podium?” Ms. Welker asked.

Ms. Psaki said she had abided by “a range of stringent ethical and legal requirements that are imposed on everybody in this administration” about conversations with future employers. She also told reporters, “I hope I meet my own bar of treating everybody with fairness and being equitable.”

The White House said in a statement: “Jen is here and working hard every day on behalf of the president to get you the answers to the questions that you have, and that’s where her focus is.”

Though a deal is not yet final and could still fall apart, Ms. Psaki is now talking only with NBCUniversal officials, the two people said. CNN had also been pursuing her, one of them said.

Typically the road from the White House to hosting a show is a gradual one: Nicolle Wallace, a communications director to former President George W. Bush, spent years as an on-air analyst before achieving stardom with her two-hour afternoon program on MSNBC . Dana Perino, one of Mr. Bush’s press secretaries, took a similar route at Fox News.

The path has accelerated in recent years, driven in part by viewer appetite for political news and the expansion of streaming TV platforms, which created dozens of viewing hours that needed to be filled. Sean Spicer, former President Donald J. Trump’s first press secretary, now co-hosts a show on Newsmax; Kayleigh McEnany, Mr. Trump’s last press secretary, is a co-host of an afternoon show on Fox News.

It is not a surprise that Ms. Psaki is considering the next act of her career. Shortly after joining the Biden team, she said she would stay in the position for about a year. She served as White House communications director during the Obama administration and was the chief spokeswoman for John Kerry when he was secretary of state.

As press secretary, Ms. Psaki revived the daily White House briefing, a tradition that mostly fell by the wayside in the Trump years, and has won praise for her adroit, if sometimes evasive, handling of reporters’ questions.

Her spiky exchanges with the Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy are often shared widely on social media platforms. On TikTok, the phrase “Psaki Bomb” is invoked by liberals who enjoy seeing her rebukes to Mr. Doocy’s queries.

Michael D. Shear contributed reporting.

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