White House Press Secretary Jay Carney Is Stepping Down

The president made the announcement, fittingly, during a Carney press breifing.

White House press secretary Jay Carney pauses to listen to a question during his daily news briefing Jan. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
National Journal
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Marina Koren and Brian Resnick
May 30, 2014, 10:17 a.m.

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?”

Contributions by Emma Roller