Jen Psaki is planning to leave her position as Joe Biden’s press secretary for a job as an MSNBC host… and not everybody is happy about it.
On Friday, NBC News President Noah Oppenheim even held an emergency phone call to assuage his staffers’ anger, according to a bombshell report from CNN.
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Some NBC News employees worry about the openly biased Psaki tarnishing the reputation of NBC News.
NBC News bills itself as a straight news network. Meanwhile, MSNBC has become known for its fiery, left-wing, news-and-opinion programs.
On the call, Oppenheim reportedly distinguished between NBC News and the “perspective programming” on MSNBC.
One party to the call told CNN, “Here’s what [Oppenheim] was saying: They have perspective programming. This was done on the perspective programming side. Not anything that reflects on NBC News.”
“People wanted answers on what NBC’s role was in this and NBC News had no role in this,” the person added. “This is MSNBC’s perspective programming.”
However, the two networks share the same parent company, NBC Universal.
They also share personnel. For example, newscaster Chuck Todd hosts MTP Daily on MSNBC.
He also moderates Meet the Press on NBC, and he collects his paycheck from NBC News.
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NBC News staffers reportedly complained to Oppenheim during a time of anxiety for NBC Universal. MSNBC has seen its ratings fall off a cliff during the Biden administration, and the network has recently come under new management.
Rashida Jones became president of MSNBC last year, and she has apparently leaned away from straight news and into news-and-opinion.
Under the Jones presidency, the network has cut the rolling news program MSNBC Reports by one hour in order to make room for an extra hour of Morning Joe, a political talk show.
“Rashida is unapologetic with what she’s doing with MSNBC,” an MSNBC staffer said to CNN. “She has been clear about the network’s direction.”
NBC Universal employees have been harboring some resentments since then. For example, MSNBC has also announced plans to make a newscaster out of Symone D. Sanders, former spokesperson for the current vice president. Some employees took issue, according to CNN’s sources.
Critics have worried about Sanders’ ability to report honestly on her former boss, and now they’re expressing similar worries about Psaki.
“This has been a slow boil for a while,” one NBC News staffer told the cable network.
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Psaki responded to these concerns at a press conference on Friday. She claims to have followed the letter of all the 30-year-old rules governing professional ethics for White House employees looking to take other jobs.
Here’s how she answered the questions, according to the White House transcript —
Q: Lots of urgent issues discussed here, but with the helicopter approaching, one little bit of housekeeping. Is it true that you are leaving the White House to work for MSNBC?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you can’t get rid of me yet, Ed. I have nothing to confirm about my length of public service or planned service, or anything about consideration about next plans.
I’m very happy to be standing with all of you here today, after it felt like a never-ending, endless time in my basement quarantining away from my family. Believe it or not, I missed you all a lot.
And my focus every day continues to be speaking on behalf of the President; answering your questions, as tough as they may be at many times, as difficult as they may be to answer at many times. And I hope that I meet my own bar of treating everybody with fairness and being equitable.
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Q: And just because this has been raised by our colleagues, by people who are observing this process: Is it ethical for you to continue conducting this job while negotiating with a media outlet?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I have always gone over and above the stringent ethical and legal requirements of the Biden administration, and I take that very seriously. And as is standard for every employee of the White House, I have received rigorous ethics counseling, including as it relates to any future employment. I’ve complied with all ethics requirements and gone beyond, and taken steps to recuse myself from decisions as appropriate.
And so, I hope that all of you — I’ve been working with all of you some time — would judge me for my record and how I treat all of you, both in the briefing room and otherwise. And I try to answer questions from everybody across the board. I know everybody in the back of the room may not always be pleased with me, but I try my best. (Laughter.) And I will — I will certainly continue to do that.
Q: Jen, given the reports, which have now been confirmed by multiple media outlets, how can you continue to be an effective briefer if you do, in fact, have plans to join a media outlet?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I have nothing, again, to announce about any conversations or any future plans. And at whatever time I leave the White House, I can promise you the first thing I’m going to do is sleep and spend time with my three- and six-year-old who are my most important audiences of all.
But I would say, Kristen, that, again, I have done — have taken the ethics, legal requirements to the highest — very seriously in any discussions, in any considerations about any future employment, just as any White House official would. And I’ve taken steps beyond that to ensure there’s no conflicts.
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Q: And I understand what you’re saying. But I guess the question is: How is it ethical to have these conversations with media outlets while you continue to have a job standing behind that podium?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of stringent ethical and legal requirements that are imposed on everybody in this administration and many administrations past about any conversations you’re having with future employers. That is true of any industry you’re working in. And I have abided by those, and tried to take steps to go beyond that as well.
Q: And, broadly speaking, is it the policy of this White House to allow staffers to have discussions, even indirectly, with institutions that impact and affect their jobs and your job here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it is the policy of this White House to ensure that anyone who is having conversations about future employment does so through consultation with the White House Counsel’s Office and ensuring they abide by any ethics and legal requirements. And those are conversations that I have taken very seriously and abided by every component of.
The Horn editorial team