Jen Psaki started her daily briefing on Thursday as she has all week with a shout-out to a member of her press team.
This time it was Assistant Press Secretary Vedant Patel – ‘He’s a beautiful writer. He’s a fast writer,’ she said.
But with reports circulating that she is about to leave her role as press secretary for a lucrative job at MSNBC she was quickly forced to explain that her tributes were not a parting gift as she worked her final days at the White House.
‘I think it is simply a reflection of my appreciation for the incredible people on my team that I get to work with every day,’ she said when asked.
‘I’ve shouted them out in the past before … I’ve presented them with sashes, to wear all sorts of embarrassing things.
‘I think working in the White House – just like being a reporter … -eople think you have glamorous, glamorous setups back there. I’m here to confirm that is not the case.
‘But our team works their tails off. There’s a lot going on and it’s just simply an effort to recognize that.’
She added that she had nothing else to announce on her own plans.
Jen Psaki on Thursday said her shout-outs to colleagues were not part of her departure from the White House, amid reports that she is about to join MSNB as a host
On Thursday, Psaki praised the work of Assistant Press Secretary Vedant Patel, for his work on climate change and immigration. ‘He’s a beautiful writer,’ she said
Yet her string of shout-outs to more junior members of staff has sounded at times like a briefing room goodbye.
And her comments came soon after it emerged that the president of NBC News held a meeting with staff furious at the decision to hire Psaki as an MSNBC host.
According to CNN, Oppenheim told his journalists that Psaki would only appear on MSNBC, which is known for its left-wing opinion shows, and not NBC News itself, which bills itself as a neutral news network.
She is said to have informally agreed to host an MSNBC show that’ll be screened on the Peacock streaming service.
One person who was on the call said: ‘Here’s what he was saying: They have perspective programming. This was done on the perspective programming side. Not anything that reflects on NBC News.
A source inside NBC News told DailyMail.com.
‘Noah had absolutely nothing to do with the discussions with Jen. This is all on MSNBC,’ said the source.
‘Noah does not oversee MSNBC and Jen will not be appearing on NBC News.
‘Our journalists at NBC News have every right to be concerned, but on Noah’s watch, Jen won’t be appearing on any NBC News programming.’
‘People wanted answers on what NBC’s role was in this and NBC News had no role in this. This is MSNBC’s perspective programming.’
NBC News are said to have been particularly perturbed at news of Psaki’s hiring emerging while she remains the White House’s top spokeswoman.
Reports that she is joining MSNBC have angered staff at NBC News who fear it risks politicizing their output. She has not yet confirmed the reports
NBC News boss Noah Oppenheimer, pictured at South by Southwest in March, reassured staff that the White House press secretary would be joining opinion-heavy MSNBC, and not NBC News, which bills itself as a neutral news network
She has yet to formally confirm she is leaving, but did not deny it when grilled by an NBC reporter at a White House briefing last week, and insisted she had acted ethically.
CBS News journalist Ed O’Keefe and NBC NEWS Kristen Welker took Psaki to task over news of her planned move in the White House briefing room on April 1.
‘Is it ethical for you to continue conducting this job while negotiating with a media outlet?’ she was asked.
And she replied: ‘I have always gone over and above the stringent ethical and legal requirements … As is standard for every employee of the White House, I have received vigorous 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 all of you would judge me for my record and how I treat all of you in the briefing room and otherwise.
‘And I try to answer questions from everybody across the board. I know that not everybody in the back of the room may not be pleased with me, but I’ll try to continue with that.’
Welker then followed-up, asking: ‘How can you continue to be an effective briefer if you do, in fact, have plans to join a media outlet?’
Psaki answered: ‘Well, I have nothing, again, to announce about any conversation, or any future plans.
‘And at whatever time I leave the White House, I can promise you the first thing I am 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 taken the ethics, legal requirements, to the highest, very seriously in any discussions, any future considerations about any future employment, just as any White House official would, and I have taken steps beyond that to ensure there is no conflict.’
Clearly unhappy with Psaki’s answer, Welker pushed again, asking: ‘And I understand what you’re saying, but I guess the question is, how is it ethical to have these conversations with these media outlets while you continue to have a job standing behind that podium?’
Psaki answered: ‘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. I have abided by those and tried to take steps to go beyond that’
NBC, whose New York headquarters is pictured, bills it NBC News division as politically-neutral – but its MSNBC rolling news network broadcasts liberal programing
But Welker continued to probe Psaki, asking: ‘And broadly speaking, is it the policy of this White House to allow staffers to have discussions, even if indirectly, with institutions that impact and affect their jobs and your job here?’
The press secretary answered: ‘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, 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.’
Other White House press secretaries have gone on to media roles after leaving.
Donald Trump’s press secretaries Sarah Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany both became Fox News contributors after stepping down – but neither bagged a presenter role.
NBC News staffers are also said to be uncomfortable that some of the news department’s biggest hosts – including Chuck Todd and Hallie Jackson – appear on both NBC News and MSNBC, further narrowing the distinction between the two brands.