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Jen Psaki, once the voice of Biden, moves to anchor’s chair

Jen Psaki, once the voice of Biden, moves to anchor’s chair

Rachel Maddow teaches her to use the TelePrompTer, with mixed results so far. Mika Brzezinski offered tips on locating guests. Nicole Wallace invites her to editorial meetings, and Andrea Mitchell teaches her interviewing techniques.

Jen Psaki has spent the past two decades dueling with journalists. She’s about to see what it’s like on the other side of the anchor desk.

After less than a year as President Biden’s press secretary, the network said Tuesday, Ms. Psaki will become host of a weekly talk show on MSNBC on March 19. “Inside With Jen Psaki” will air Sundays at noon, vying for the same weekend clout as political mainstays like “Meet the Press” and “Face the Nation.”

It’s a quick move to full-time anchor for Ms. Psaki, 44, whose shrewd defenses of the Biden administration — and feisty energy with Fox News’ Peter Doocy — have made her a cult figure of sorts among liberals. It spawned the TikTok hashtag #psakibomb and was gently parodied on “Saturday Night Live.”

Now you’ll take charge of an hour-long program on a Biden-friendly network, mixing politics and political debate with lighter style like human-interest profiles of politicians, celebrities, and athletes. (One of her dream guests: Joe Burrow, quarterback for her husband’s hometown of the Cincinnati Bengals.)

Ms. Psaki, who began appearing on MSNBC as an analyst in September, is the latest in a string of White House contacts — including George Stephanopoulos, Diane Sawyer and Dana Perino — who have left government for the fancier, more lucrative world of television. News.

Such arrangements raise thorny questions about journalism ethics: when Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kayleigh McEnany Liberals joined Fox News, crying filthy about the “revolving door” and claiming that the Murdoch-owned network was an extension of the Trump White House. Those voices said little about Ms. Psaki’s migration to MSNBC, or the transition of Biden White House alumnus Simone D. Sanders, who also hosts a weekend show on the channel.

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For her part, Ms. Psaki said MSNBC viewers can expect to see her true self — and that “I’m not going on TV to be a mouthpiece.”

She said in an interview from her new office in NBC’s Washington office, where the New York Times is framed followed by a crossword (“___ Psaki, Obama White House communications director”) from the West Wing.

She said, “I will not attack him without justification, and I will not applaud him without justification.” “If he deserves applause, I will applaud him. If he deserves criticism, I will criticize him.”

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MSNBC is going through its own transitional moment. The network achieved a record audience under Trump, fueled by the fact that he actually did it? Monologues from the likes of Mrs. Maddow and Mrs. Wallace. But Ms. Maddow has since cut back her appearances to once a week. Her 9pm replacement, Alex Wagner, struggled to find an audience. Brian Williams left. Ratings fell across the board. Broadcasters and executives hope Ms. Psaki’s familiar face will lure some viewers back.

Ms. Wallace said in an interview, laughing at the memory of Ms. Psaki’s conversations with the Fox News White House correspondent:

NBC is betting big on the Psaki brand. In addition to “Inside,” Ms. Psaki will soon be hosting a show on Peacock, the streaming network, and will write a regular column for MSNBC’s email newsletter. And the network has gone after more of her former White House colleagues: Ron Klain, who just resigned as Biden’s chief of staff, said in an interview that NBC had approached him about a possible on-air role, but that he wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in television. (Mr. Klein also praised Ms. Psaki as a “fantastic explainer”) From “Very Effective in Television Media.”)

Ms. Psaki said she hopes to invite Republicans to her show, and NBC representatives, seeking to emphasize her independence, pointed to her on-air spats with the Biden administration. In September, she said inMeet the pressand that Democrats would “lose” the 2022 election if voters viewed the midterms as a “referendum on the president.”

In the interview, Ms. Psaki was asked to provide a sample of criticism of Mr. Biden. “I was certainly critical of the way things were handled in terms of sharing information about the documents,” she said, referring to the White House’s decision to keep the public in the dark for weeks about classified documents found at Mr. Biden’s home.

But Psaki’s press secretary quickly returned. “At the same time, there can be a tendency to make it a five-alarm fire—like, everything is a disaster! I tend to provide context when needed.”

MSNBC viewers may not care either way. In this tribal moment in media and politics, Americans tend to flock to news sources that reaffirm their beliefs. When Mr. Stephanopoulos moved from the Bill Clinton White House to ABC News in 1996, it set off alarm bells among media ethicists. That was a less partisan era.

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Reflecting on his move to television, Mr. Stephanopoulos said in an interview: “As an analyst, the thing I said to myself was, ‘How do you keep your integrity and do your job? “For me, it was appropriate to say on the air what I would say in the meeting. Sometimes that can be critical: If the president took an action that I would have argued against in the meeting, I would have no problem making the point.”

Ms. Psaki reached out to Mr. Stephanopoulos for advice shortly after leaving the White House. “The balancing act,” he remembers telling her, “is how you align with your past work and your past beliefs and still be constructive to the audience.” “It applies then, today and tomorrow.”

Ms. Psaki, who took a few months off over the summer to travel with her family, said the series debut of “Inside” meant her political career was officially over. She said, “I will not join for re-election again.” And I have no plans to return to the government. never.”

What about running for office?

God forbid, said Mrs. Psaki. “This is my worst nightmare.”