Jen Psaki Hoped to Right Trump’s Wrongs in Her Dealings With Fox News and Peter Doocy

“What I will say is that we had a civil, good relationship,” she said

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Former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki pointed to former President Donald Trump as a big reason for the Biden administration’s “avoidance strategy” when it came to feuding with Fox News.

She also detailed her relationship with Fox News’ Peter Doocy after being asked about it in a forum discussion. The forum, titled “Notes from the Frying Pan to the Fire” took place at the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago. 

The IOP Speakers Series director and moderator Jennifer Steinhauer went straight for it in one of her first questions to Psaki.

“We’re just going to do the Doocy,” Steinhauer quipped. “The country was sort of mesmerized by these weekly, or often more than that, sparring that you had with the Fox News reporter in the briefing room. Some people think that you hate each other. Some people think you secretly have brunch. … So I’m curious, what was your true role of those moments in the briefing room, and what was your approach there?”

Psaki quickly sought to set the record straight about her thoughts on Doocy.

“First, let me say that I do like Peter Doocy, and that may not be popular with everybody. That’s OK,” Psaki said. “But part of the objective when I came into this job was to reestablish civility in the briefing room and make it a place where people could hear information through the media, to the public, not a place where there wasn’t debate and tough questioning.

“Actually, when that is happening, in my view, that’s when it’s working. And that’s an important part of our democracy, not just in the United States, but it’s also a message we’re sending to the world. This is not a common thing that other countries do, where there’s three briefings nearly every day that happen in the U.S. government.

“We made a decision from the beginning that part of restoring civility was treating people with respect in the briefing room, with, to calling on everyone, including Fox, which didn’t always have positive reporting about the President or the vice president,” she added. “And not making a dispute with Fox the story. And there are times when that may be appropriate, but not when you follow an administration where they were disputing the legitimacy of institutions or the media.

“And so, you know, we began a lot of these sparring, it became sparring because he would ask questions. He wrote the questions a lot of times, sometimes I’m sure they were worked out with people he worked with at Fox. They represented what Fox was talking about on that day,” Psaki continued. “And you could sometimes often predict what they might be. Right? It skewed a lot more about immigration and the border and the vice president and all sorts of things that may not have always been… Were — they wanted to make into a controversy.”

In response to Psaki’s previous description of how Doocy forms his questions, a Fox News spokesperson released the following statement last month:

“In his role as White House correspondent, Peter Doocy’s job is to elicit truth from power for the American public. His questions are his own, he is a terrific reporter and we are extremely proud of his work.”

Psaki went on to describe her relationship with Doocy.

“I will say, at the end of the day, we did not brunch, but we also didn’t hate each other. It was somewhere in between,” she said. “What I will say is that we had a civil, good relationship, I will say.”

“I will say is there is a good question to be posed. Maybe someone will pose this or will not. I’ll pose it for you. We had a good relationship. We had a sparring in the briefing room. Is that performative? Maybe it is, right?” Psaki concluded. “And what does it say about the fact that we had that back and forth in the briefing room, and on social media I was cheered for pushing back on Peter Doocy, and he was cheered for pushing back on me. And in many ways, as much as we had a civil, good, professional relationship that does speak to kind of the division in society and what social media does and drives.”