‘Are you?’: Jen Psaki raises laugh as Fox News’ Peter Doocy says he’s ‘sorry to see you go’

The Fox News reporter and White House Press Secretary have frequently sparred with each other inside the Brady press room

Johanna Chisholm
Friday 06 May 2022 15:24 BST
Peter Doocy thanks Jen Psaki for her work as White House Press Secretary

During Thursday’s White House press briefing, outgoing White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki congratulated her successor Karine Jean-Pierre, marking a historic passing of the torch as the 44-year-old will be the first Black and first openly LGBT+ person to hold the role.

But that wasn’t the only historic exchange to be documented in the Brady press briefing room on Thursday.

Fox News’ Peter Doocy, who has a well-earned reputation of being a thorn in Ms Psaki’s side, frequently peppering her with questions that have, on occasions, inflamed and annoyed the seemingly unflappable press secretary, decided to break with tradition this week and said something to her she likely never expected to hear: a compliment.

“Thank you, Jen,” the Fox News reporter said as he was called upon during the briefing, which is likely to be one of Ms Psaki’s last before she passes the torch over to Ms Jean-Pierre on 13 May.

“Sorry to see you go,” he added, a comment that notably caught more than just Ms Psaki off guard, as the room full of reporters paused to take in what the frequent antagonist of the Biden administration had just said.

“Are you?” responded a smiling Ms Psaki, while the spectators watching this uncharacteristically cool exchange erupted into laughter.

Mr Doocy, who waited a moment for the giggles to dial back, chirped back that “yes” he was sad, adding that: “You’ve always been a good sport”.

“And so on behalf of everybody thank you for everything,” he added, while Ms Psaki cut-in that she too believed he’d been a good sport.

“And I can’t wait to see you up there, Karine,” he closed, before moving onto his question.

This week’s praise between the pair, while seemingly genuine, was an abrupt departure from what audiences inside the Brady press room were treated to over the course of Ms Psaki’s tenure at the lectern for the past 17 months.

As recently as last month, Ms Psaki was sparring with the Fox News reporter, discussed on a podcast whether his questions made him “sound like a stupid son of a b****”.

“He works for a network that provides people with questions that, nothing personal to any individual including Peter Doocy, but might make anyone sound like a stupid son of a b****,” she said during a taping of the podcast Pod Save the World.

In one of their first kick ups, the reporter set the tone for what the following year and half between the pair would be like when he asked Ms Psaki about the Biden administration’s coronavirus travel bans in January 2021, comparing her current boss’s bans to the highly criticised travel pans of his predecessor.

“When president Trump was imposing travel restrictions in March, specifically on China then candidate Biden called it ‘xenophobic’ and ‘fear-mongering,’” Doocy asked. “Now, President Biden is putting travel restrictions on people coming in from other countries. What word do we use to describe that?”

Ms Psaki quickly corrected this assessment as being not a “fair articulation” of the president’s policies, noting that he had described Mr Trump’s then Muslim travel ban as xenophobic and previously said that the former president’s bans on travel to China during the early part of the pandemic were stigmatising.

The pattern has been much the same in recent months, with Ms Psaki at times delivering a dressing down of the reporter, once saying: “​Let me give you the facts here – I know that can be inconvenient”, and at other times giving more tongue-in-cheek replies to questions she deemed to be not as relevant: “Presidents don’t drive much,” she once said when prodded by Doocy about the president not owning an electric car.

Ms Psaki is thought to be starting a position with MSNBC’s streaming service, Peacock, after her departure from the White House.

Before arriving at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 2020, she worked as a political commentator on CNN, a position she’d taken up in 2017 after working in the Obama administration as the White House communications director.

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