White House spox Jean-Pierre announced departures of two friendly reporters, one top assistant staffer

July 28, 2023
Ben Marquis

On Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced some key departures that could potentially impact how President Joe Biden's administration is covered by the media.

Jean-Pierre first said goodbye to a pair of friendly reporters who were moving on from the White House press corps to other assignments, then revealed the "devastating" news that one of her top assistant press secretaries was leaving the administration altogether to attend law school, the Daily Caller reported.

That staffer is at least the fifth member of the White House Communications team to leave their post thus far in 2023, though some of those staffers merely transitioned over to other positions within the Biden administration or the president's re-election campaign.

Two reporters, one staffer on their way out

Near the top of Thursday's press briefing, press secretary Jean-Pierre first addressed the impending departure of two French correspondents -- Sebastian Smith of Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Kethevane Gorjestani of France 24.

"Thank you both for your time here with us at the White House Press Briefing Room. And we are very sad to see you all go. And we’ll miss you both," she said. "Additionally, I wanted to congratulate Ket on your service as -- on your service as the president of the foreign press group."

"We also want to share another devastating, devastating farewell that I want to share on our team. Our very own Abdullah Hassan is leaving us next week, and he’s heading to law school," she continued. "Abdullah deferred law school by a year in order to continue working in the White House, and we are grateful -- grateful for his dedications -- dedicated service to the country, to the President, and our press team."

"Abdullah has had an extraordinarily important portfolio here as our spokesperson, as you well know, on immigration, student debt, climate, and more," Jean-Pierre added. "Abdullah, we know you’re -- you’re going to do great things and amazing things. I think you are going to be a fantastic lawyer because you are a good human and you care about people. So I can’t wait to see what you -- what you do after law school."

The press secretary then proceeded to express how "thrilled" she was to announce that Abdullah's replacement had already been named, and introduced Angelo Fernandez, who came over to the White House from a similar position with the Department of Homeland Security.

Biden lost two senior staffers from Communications team this year

To be sure, there is always some amount of turnover among staffers and even Cabinet members in the White House of any administration, and President Biden's White House is no exception, according to a turnover tracker compiled and regularly updated by the Brookings Institute.

That Brookings tracker is admittedly limited, however, in that it only accounts for the turnover of Cabinet members and the president's "A-Team" of senior-level staffers.

In that regard, and with respect only to the White House Communications team, Biden has lost two senior staffers this year -- former Communications Director Kate Bedingfield, who resigned on March 1 to join the Biden-Harris campaign, and former Office of Digital Strategy Director Rob Flaherty, who resigned on June 30 to also join the president's re-election campaign.

Other Communications team departures

In addition to the departure of those two senior staffers, the Daily Caller noted that the White House Communications team has also lost at least three other mid-level staffers this year, including the just-announced exit of Abdullah.

In February, former Press Assistant Megha Bhattacharya, as well as her own top assistant and Chief of Staff Robbie Dornbush, both left the White House at the same time.

At that time, Jean-Pierre declared them both to be "valued members" of her team who would be sorely missed -- though they were undoubtedly also replaced in short order as Abdullah was this week.

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