Family: Married Natalie Wyeth, now assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of the Treasury, in 2012. They are expecting a child.
— News services
White House press secretary Jay Carney became the news instead of just delivering it Friday, when President Barack Obama interrupted the daily media briefing to announce Carney’s resignation after three and a half years as his primary spokesman.
Obama said it was “bittersweet” to see his friend Carney step down and announced that principal deputy press secretary Josh Earnest will take over the job. Carney said the transition will take place around mid-June, but Earnest will take his place traveling next week on Obama’s trip to Europe.
Carney brought practical experience to the job as a former reporter who once covered the White House for Time magazine. He left journalism to become communications director for Vice President Joe Biden and subsequently moved over to serve as Obama’s press secretary in 2011.
“He comes to this place with a reporter’s perspective,” Obama told reporters after interrupting Carney as he responded to a question on Ukraine in the Brady Press Briefing Room. “That’s why, believe it or not, I think he will miss hanging out with you.”
A key component of a White House press secretary’s job is to regularly joust with reporters in an intense question-and-answer session. Obama said he is putting the “flak jacket” for dealing with the press on Earnest.
Obama also teased Earnest for providing the “golden voice and dulcet tones” as narrator of West Wing Week, a recap of White House events that can be seen on YouTube or the White House website. Earnest told reporters he’s “grateful and excited and relishes the opportunity to spend the next couple of years with you.”
Carney said he’s made no decision yet on his next step but plans to take the summer off before starting a new job. He ruled out rumors that he would serve as ambassador to Russia, after having covered the collapse of the Soviet Union for Time. He said his wife, ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman, and two children wouldn’t welcome such a move.
Carney, who celebrated his 49th birthday last week, expressed his appreciation for working at the White House for more than five years, even though he said being press secretary is not easy.
“It’s an important interaction that takes place here,” Carney said. “It’s not always pretty. It could certainly be better. But to be a part of it is an honor and a joy for me. And no matter how tough the briefing is, I walk out of here having been glad to stand here.”
Obama said that Carney had demonstrated good judgment and temperament and that he will continue to rely on Carney’s advice from outside the West Wing. The two men embraced before Obama made his exit.