'Systemic racism pervades every part of our society': new White House press secretary in 2020

Karine Jean-Pierre under fire for incendiary language, fueling election conspiracies, labeling opponents racist.

Updated: May 16, 2022 - 10:50pm

President Biden's new White House press secretary has a history of promoting conspiracy theories about elections, pushing to overturn Donald Trump's victory in 2016, and freely labeling opponents — and the United States itself — as racist.

Karine Jean-Pierre on Friday replaced Jen Psaki as the public face and chief spokesperson for the White House, whose job is to articulate the president's views to reporters and the American people. Jean-Pierre is the first black woman and first openly gay person to assume the position of White House press secretary.

Before taking on her new role, Jean-Pierre worked in Democratic politics until 2016, when she became a senior adviser for the liberal activist group MoveOn.org. She then joined Biden's presidential campaign in 2020 and after the election was tapped to join his White House communications team.

During her time outside government working as a left-wing activist, Jean-Pierre was active on social media, especially Twitter, and made frequent media appearances as a commentator on CNN and MSNBC. Using her platform, Jean-Pierre made several controversial statements that are now gaining scrutiny given her new job.

Among those statements were claims that the 2016 presidential election was illegitimate and that Trump shouldn't have been recognized as president.

In November 2016, for example, about three weeks after Trump won the election, Jean-Pierre tweeted out an article titled "Electoral College must reject Trump unless he sells his business."

The following month, she tweeted, "Why I Will Not Cast My Electoral Vote for Donald Trump," the title of a New York Times opinion piece arguing the "election of the next president is not yet a done deal."

Jean-Pierre also tweeted in December 2016 that Trump's victory was the result of a "stolen election," adding, "Welcome to the world of #unpresidented Trump." Meanwhile, her employer MoveOn.org announced, "With five days before the Electoral College meets, MoveOn members will mobilize to ask electors to reject Trump because of Russian interference."

For the next four years, Jean-Pierre repeatedly accused Trump and his associates of colluding with the Russian government to win the 2016 election, describing Trump as an illegitimate president who was a "puppet" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2019, Jean-Pierre praised former President Jimmy Carter for saying a full investigation "would show that Trump didn't actually win the election in 2016 ... He was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf."

The now-White House press secretary also called for Trump's impeachment and championed the investigation of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Trump-Russia collusion, suggesting the probe would end Trump's presidency.

Mueller's investigation found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Currently, Special Counsel John Durham is investigating the origins and conduct of the Trump-Russia probe and has introduced evidence in a criminal case revealing what he alleges was a coordinated partisan effort to push the collusion narrative.

Psaki defended Jean-Pierre's old tweets. Jean-Pierre "has affirmed that Donald Trump won in 2016, too," she told Mediaite. "Like so many of us, Karine was concerned about the U.S. intelligence community's unanimous finding that Russia intervened to help Trump. But he won."

Jean-Pierre hasn't just rejected the results of the 2016 election. She also said the outcome of the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, in which Republican candidate Brian Kemp defeated Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams, was illegitimate.

"Reminder: Brian Kemp stole the gubernatorial election from Georgians and Stacey Abrams," she tweeted as recently as April 2020.

Psaki also addressed that tweet. "We all agree the 2018 election in Georgia is settled," she said. "And we're also all concerned about voter suppression issues, including the president. Kemp won and she sees that tweet as having oversimplified the problem."

Abrams never officially conceded the election, although she acknowledged she didn't win.

During her time on the Biden White House communications staff, Jean-Pierre has often criticized Trump and his supporters who have questioned or challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Beyond rejecting election results, Jean-Pierre has also played the race card, frequently labeling people and policies she disagrees with as "racist."

The most frequent target of such attacks was Trump.

"Donald Trump is a RACIST!" Jean-Pierre tweeted in 2018.

That same year, she said during an appearance on MSNBC that "we have a racist president in the White House who really pushes his racism like a peacock."

Perhaps most striking, Jean-Pierre accused Fox News, one of the nation's most prominent media outlets with a front-row seat at White House press briefings, of racism.

"[Fox News] was racist before coronavirus, they are racist during the coronavirus, Fox News will be racist after the coronavirus," she said on MSNBC in March 2020. "They are all in on being state TV for Donald Trump."

Psaki tried to explain Jean-Pierre's comments in a statement to Mediaite, saying she was referring to Fox News host Tucker Carlson specifically rather than the Fox News network generally.

"This is a years-old clip of Karine, referring to an opinion host — not a reporter — when she was not in government and not speaking on behalf of the president," Psaki said. "As she has shown at the White House many times already, including in the Briefing Room, she will continue to follow the guidance of the president in engaging with a range of reporters from a broad range of outlets, including Fox, even when there are different points of view."

The new White House press secretary has attacked several lawmakers, former Trump administration officials, and even policies and ideas — such as voter ID laws and a wall on the southern border — as racist.

From 2015 to 2020, Jean-Pierre attacked people, policies, ideas, and words for being racist dozens of times, according to a New York Post review of her social media and TV appearances.

Among those she accused of racism was the United States of America itself.

"I just think that America has a really big problem with race," Jean-Pierre said in a 2019 interview with PBS. "And it's very real, and we have yet to deal with it."

"Systemic racism pervades every part of our society," she tweeted in 2020.

"I always say, if you're not white, male, straight, or wealthy you're under attack — I mean there is a target on your back," she said in the aftermath of Trump's election victory, according to Breitbart.

In addition to accusing the former president of racism, Jean-Pierre has suggested Trump could start a civil war.

"He is not a president for black people," she said on MSNBC in 2019. "He's not a president for women. He's not a president for brown people. He's not a president for the LGBTQ community. He chooses to just double down and triple down on bigotry and racism. I don't know where Donald Trump wants to take this. But wherever it is, it's going to be dangerous. It could lead to some sort of a horrible civil war."

Jean-Pierre also promoted the uncorroborated allegations of sexual misconduct against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018.

She tweeted, "Brett Kavanaugh should not be coaching girls basketball" and suggested he "does not know the difference between intercourse and sexual assault."

Jean-Pierre also gave credence to the salacious gang-rape allegations from Julie Swetnick against Kavanaugh, tweeting, "Julie Swetnick, 3rd Brett Kavanaugh accuser tells @nbc that he was a 'very mean drunk.'"

As a White House spokesperson, Jean-Pierre accused Republicans of lying about critical race theory in November.

"Republicans are lying," she told reporters in November. "They're not being honest. They're not being truthful about where we stand, and they're cynically trying to use our kids as a political football. They're talking about our kids when it's election season, but they won't vote for them when it matters."

Jean-Pierre's comments came after Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin unexpectedly won Virginia's gubernatorial race. One of the tenets of his campaign was opposing critical race theory, which he said was racially divisive.

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment for this story.