Karine Jean-Pierre addressed her historic position as the nation's first black, openly gay White House press secretary in her first briefing
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Karine Jean-Pierre addressed her historic position as the nation’s first black, openly gay White House press secretary in her first briefing, where she struggled to answer questions on inflation, addressed the baby forumla shortage and spoke to why President Joe Biden was visiting Buffalo.

Jean-Pierre took questions for a little more than an hour. She has previously briefed the public in her role as deputy White House press secretary – a job that prepared her to step in Jen Psaki’s shoes. Psaki’s last briefing was Friday.

‘I just want to say a few words about how honored I am to be here with all of you today,’ Jean-Pierre said at the top of her briefing.

‘I am obviously acutely aware that my presence at this podium represents a few firsts. I am a black gay immigrant woman, the first of all three of those to hold this position. I would not be here today if it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me. I stand on their shoulders,’ she added.

Jean-Pierre, 47, was born in Fort-de-France, Martinique, the daughter of Haitian parents. Her family moved to New York City when she was five. 

Karine Jean-Pierre addressed her historic position as the nation's first black, openly gay White House press secretary in her first briefing

Karine Jean-Pierre addressed her historic position as the nation’s first black, openly gay White House press secretary in her first briefing

Karine Jean-Pierre arrives for her first press briefing as press secretary

Karine Jean-Pierre arrives for her first press briefing as press secretary 

She tackled a variety of topics in her first briefing as press secretary.

But she struggled to address how taxing the wealthy would combat the record-high inflation that has caused costs of food, gas and rent to skyrocket.

Jean-Pierre was asked about criticism from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. President Joe Biden has criticized Amazon for not paying enough in taxes and has said its workers should be allowed to unionize. 

‘We have talked about we have talked about this this past year, about making sure that the wealthiest among us are paying their fair share. And that is important to do. And that is something that, you know, the president has been working on everyday when we talk about inflation and lowering costs,’ she said.

Bezos hasn’t let up his criticism in his first public spat with the White House.

‘They understandably want to muddy the topic. They know inflation hurts the neediest the most,’ he tweeted.

‘But unions aren’t causing inflation and neither are wealthy people. Remember the administration tried their best to add another $3.5 TRILLION to federal spending.’

‘They failed, but if they had succeeded, inflation would be even higher than it is today, and inflation today is at a 40-year high.’

Jean-Pierre didn’t call out Bezos by name but did say: ‘It’s not a huge mystery why one of the wealthiest individuals on Earth opposes an economic agenda that is for the middle class.’

In her first press briefing, Karine Jean-Pierre answered questions on a variety of topics including why President Joe Biden (above) was going to Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday

In her first press briefing, Karine Jean-Pierre answered questions on a variety of topics including why President Joe Biden (above) was going to Buffalo, New York, on Tuesday

Jean-Pierre also addressed attacks on the White House by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos

Jean-Pierre also addressed attacks on the White House by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos 

The Biden administration is also struggling to deal with a shortage of infant formula as worried parents try to feed their hungry children.

The administration has said repeatedly the Food and Drug Administration will have more details later Monday on how they will address the shortage.

The crisis was sparked when the agency shut down Abbott Nutrition’s factory in Michigan – the largest producer of baby forumla – after some infants got sick due to a bacteria in the product.

Jean-Pierre said the administration was working to get the facility open safely and to increase imported formula. 

‘The FDA is working closely with Abbott to bring the facility back online safely. That’s the key here safe we want to make sure that it’s done in a safe way. We are very close to having a path forward to safely reopening the facility. We can you can expect an announcement from FDA later today on that that will go into more details. We’re also moving as quickly as possible to safely bring in additional product from other countries as soon as today as well,’ she said.

Abbott has reached a deal with the FDA that could see it reopen in two weeks, according to reports. But the agreement is subject to court and FDA approval.

The company said it would first produce the EleCare and Alimentum brands before moving on to Similac and other products. The speciality formula brands are in particular high need.

Jean-Pierre also refused to call out Fox News’ Tucker Carlson or any other figure touting fringe theories or what’s being called the ‘great replacement theory,’ a once-fringe racist idea that became a popular refrain among media figures like Carlson and Laura Ingraham of Fox News and conservative writer Ann Coulter. 

The alleged shooter at the Buffalo, New York, grocery store wrote a document claiming white Americans were at risk of being ‘replaced’ by people of color because of immigration and higher birthrates – which led to authorities to declare the shooting to be racially motivated.

Thirteen people were shot and 10 died in Saturday’s attack. Eleven of the people shot were black.   

 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took questions for a little more than an hour in her first press briefing

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre took questions for a little more than an hour in her first press briefing

Jean-Pierre refused to name names.

‘It doesn’t matter who they are – who spews this type of hate, hatred. We’re going to call out, we’re going to condemn that,’ she said, adding: ‘I’m not going to get into a back and forth on names.’

‘What we want to do is make sure that we send a very clear message that hate must have no safe harbor,’ she said. ‘We must reject hatred and extreme extreme ideologies that seek to divide Americans wherever we find it in society. It is antithetical to who we are as a country.’

‘We’re not going to get into politics here about this. We want to make sure that we’re calling out what we’re seeing.’

She did not directly answer when asked why Biden was going to Buffalo on Tuesday and did not visit Waukesha, Wisconsin, after the driver of a sport utility vehicle killed six people and injured sixty-two others by hitting participants and observers at the annual Christmas parade.

‘He’s visited many communities,’ she said of the president.

‘Buffalo is not the first community – sadly – that he has to go up to, because of a violent attack,’ she said.

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