Jen Psaki was named as Joe Biden’s choice for White House press secretary this week. As the press swooned over the fact that the Biden administration’s communications team will be an all-female one, perhaps none of them thought Psaki would be the first to create a kerfuffle. Many eyebrows were raised as a photograph taken during her days working in the State Department during the Obama administration resurfaced and went viral.
The photo is one that was taken during a trip to Russia with then-Secretary of State John Kerry. She was the State Department’s spokesperson at the time. The people in the photograph, besides Psaki and Kerry, are Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova. Those two were Kerry and Psaki’s Russian counterparts. As such, they exchanged gifts as is tradition. Unfortunately, Psaki was given a pink (!) hat, a traditional style fur hat. Instead of a pretty fur hat, the kind that is common there, her’s looks ugly and cheap. The attention-getting part of the hat is a Russian hammer and sickle logo on it. Psaki is wearing the hat with a huge smile on her face.
Let’s think about that for a minute. The U.S. State Department’s spokeswoman is standing on Russian soil wearing a symbol of Communist Russia, standing with the Secretary of State. What’s wrong with this picture? Maybe you remember that Barack Obama mocked Mitt Romney for stating that Russia was America’s biggest threat in 2012. Maybe you remember that video clip of Sergei Lavrov and Barack Obama, also in 2012, when Obama leaned over and quietly told Lavrov that he (Obama) would have more leeway to deal favorably with the Russians after his re-election. Or maybe you just realize that the freaking symbol for Communist Russia should not be something an American working in the diplomacy community is sporting, even on a dumb hat. The message is wrong, the optics are bad.
Remember that the new Biden administration has been hailed by their lapdogs in the press as the A team, The Avengers who have come to save America. These are supposed to be seasoned professionals, the really smart, experienced people. Well, when the photograph went viral, Jen Psaki had an interesting response in the midst of all the criticism she has been receiving on social media. The photo was taken in 2014. Jen Psaki now says if you have a problem with her appearing to be a useful idiot for Russia, well, you are the problem, not her use of poor judgment.
For anyone who hasn’t been the target of Russian propaganda (cc:
@McFaul @HillaryClinton) the purpose is to discredit powerful messengers and to spread misinformation to confuse the public. Anyone who repeats it is (unwitting or not) simply a puppet of the propaganda machine.
For anyone who hasn't been the target of Russian propaganda (cc: @McFaul @HillaryClinton) the purpose is to discredit powerful messengers and to spread misinformation to confuse the public. Anyone who repeats it is (unwitting or not) simply a puppet of the propaganda machine.
— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) December 1, 2020
On the one hand, she, a spokesperson, is arrogantly claiming she is a “powerful messenger” and on the other hand she is saying if anyone sees the photo and (rightly) comments on the fact that she is wearing the symbol of Communist Russia, well, that person is a rube for the Russian propaganda machine. That is quite an interesting take on the jam she finds herself in, right? Why didn’t she just say, look, it was a gift and I put it on for a photograph to be polite? Did she wear it all day or take it off as soon as she could without offending anyone and that was the only time she wore it? Psaki could have quickly cleared it all up but she didn’t. Instead of saying, yeah, it was a dumb thing to do, she doubled-down and blames her critics for speaking up. Welcome back to the Obama days, y’all.
Oh, WE’RE the problem?
Next time, don’t sport the communist hat with a big fucking grin on your face. Or…just own it.
Fucking pick one.
— VICE-PRESIDENT ELECT CORRCOMM (@corrcomm) December 2, 2020
This you? pic.twitter.com/Kb93JfeL15
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) December 2, 2020
To add fuel to the fire, USA Today fact-checked the photograph. The press is already hard at work providing cover for the incoming Biden administration. A nationally distributed newspaper decided to come to the aid of Jen Psaki. It decided that the situation is “missing context”.
“The claim: A photo shows Jen Psaki wearing a hammer and sickle hat while posing with officials from Russia,” USA Today wrote before reporting that Psaki did not end up keeping the hat according to a source familiar with the gift exchange. “Our ruling: Missing context.”
The “fact check” explained, “The image is real, but claims that the hat was anything more a gift or that Psaki was with Russian officials in any capacity beyond her official role are MISSING CONTEXT.”
The reactions to the fact check from conservatives concerned about how American public figures represent America overseas is just as you would think it to be.
Missing context?! Sorry, this IS inexcusable. Not to sound harsh here, but if you abhor Nazism and Nazi symbols, you ought to equally abhor the communist hammer & sickle. Pleading ignorance here is unacceptable. But I'm just a kid of immigrants who fled the USSR…What do I know https://t.co/Yxr4ZYSmrb
— Gabriella Hoffman (@Gabby_Hoffman) December 1, 2020
What context makes wearing communist symbolism in a photo — while representing the US — acceptable? https://t.co/rMakH8jwo1
— Virginia Kruta (@VAKruta) December 1, 2020
This is a preview of how the next four years will play out in the media. Members of the Biden administration will be protected by the press. The band is back together and the members of the media couldn’t be more thrilled. Think of how Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany have been treated. It’s cute that the talking heads on cable news networks are swooning about an all-female communications team but one is already in place in the Trump White House. Jen Psaki will be treated far better, with kid gloves, in comparison to how the first working mom to be the White House press secretary (Sanders) was treated or her successor.