Karine Jean-Pierre (1977- )

Karine Jean-Pierre
Karine Jean-Pierre
Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith (Public Domain)

Karine Jean-Pierre is an American political campaign organizer, political commentator, author, university lecturer, and activist. She is the first “Black, gay, immigrant woman” to hold the position of White House Press Secretary.

Born in Fort-de-France, Martinique to Haitian parents on August 13, 1977, Karine Jean-Pierre is the eldest of three siblings. In 1982 the family moved to Queens Village, New York, where Jean-Pierre was raised. Her mother was a home health aide, and her father was a taxi driver, even though he had earned an engineering degree in Haiti. Their work schedules left Jean-Pierre responsible for caring for her younger siblings.

Jean-Pierre earned a B.S. from the New York Institute of Technology in 1997. In 2003, she graduated with an M.P.A. from the School of Public and International Affairs at  Columbia University. During her time at Columbia, she served in student government, which solidified her passion for politics. Following graduate school, she served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the New York City Council in 2004. That same year, she worked as the director of legislative and budget affairs for New York City Councilor James F. Gennaro. From 2006 to 2007, Jean-Pierre worked as the State and Local Outreach Coordinator for Wal-Mart Watch.

From 2007 to 2008, she worked as the Southeast Regional Political Director for the John Edwards’ presidential campaign. When his campaign ended, she joined the Barack Obama presidential campaign as its Southern Regional Political Director. From December of 2008 to January of 2009, she served on the Presidential Inauguration Committee and from January 2009 to May 2009, Jean-Pierre worked as the White House Liaison for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. From May 2009 to March 2011, she was Regional Political Director for the White House Office of Political Affairs in the Obama administration. In March of 2011, she became National Deputy Battleground States Director for Obama for America, a position she held until June 2012.

In May 2013, Jean-Pierre became the Senior Advisor in the Bill Thompson New York City mayoral campaign. In September of that year, she began working as Campaign Manager for Letitia James in her runoff for New York City Public Advocate. James won that election with 82.9 percent of the vote.

In December of 2013, Jean-Pierre became a lecturer in international and public affairs at Columbia University. Three years later she became Senior Advisor and National Spokesperson for Moveon.org. From April 2014 to January 2015, Jean-Pierre served as Campaign Manager for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Initiative. In May of 2015 until February of 2016, she was Deputy Campaign Manager for the unsuccessful presidential campaign of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Jean-Pierre was a senior advisor to the Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign. After Biden’s election, she was named the White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary. She is the second Black woman (after Judy Smith in the George W. Bush White House), and the first openly gay woman, to ever hold the position. In May 2022, when White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced her departure, Karine Jean-Pierre was tapped to fill the position.

Jean-Pierre released her autobiography, Moving Forward, in 2019 where she shares her own mental health struggles and outlines her non-traditional path to politics. For her advocacy work and activism, she was named one of The Advocate’s 2011 Forty Under 40.