Jay Carney began his press briefing Friday afternoon by saying that there would be no more personnel announcements. That was true, until the president interrupted him.
“One of Jay’s favorite lines is, ‘I have no personnel announcements at this time,’ but I do, and it’s bittersweet,” Obama said, stepping up to the podium in a surprise appearance.
Obama announced that Carney will be stepping down as press secretary after three years, and will be replaced by deputy press secretary Josh Earnest.
“Jay has become one of my closest friends, and is a great press secretary and a great adviser,” the president said. “He’s got good judgment. He has a good temperament, and he’s got a good heart. And I’m going to miss him a lot.”
The two shared a hug as Obama left the stage and the briefing continued. Carney will remain in his post until July. Carney did not give a reason for stepping down, other than spending more time this summer with his family. He did say that he approached the president about leaving in April.
There have been intermittent rumors that Carney is interested in a diplomatic post, possibly in Russia. But he has denied such claims. At just three years at the post, Carney has served as press secretary longer than anyone else in the last two decades. “People say to me, ‘You have the hardest job’ or ‘one of the hardest jobs’ and I am not saying it is easy every day — but I loved it,” Carney said.
So, what’s next for Carney? “Well, I might manage my son’s band,” he said. (That band, Twenty20, recently released a music video).
Earnest steps in after a long history with the president. He served as Obama’s communications director in Iowa during the 2008 presidential campaign. “His name describes his demeanor,” Obama said of Earnest. “Josh is an earnest guy, and you can’t find just a nicer individual, even outside of Washington.”
Earnest said Friday during the briefing that he has “learned so much” from his predecessor and looks forward to taking on the job. “I would welcome any Royals [his favorite baseball team] questions from this podium at any time.”
“And you expect us to believe that?” a reporter said, drawing laughter from the group.
Though Friday did not mark Carney’s last briefing, he and the reporters shared warm exchanges.
“Every day I’ve been in here with you has been a privilege,” Carney said — to which a reporter responded, “Every day?”