Jay Carney Is a Unique White House Spokesman

It’s been nearly four decades since a reporter became the White House press secretary.

By + More

It’s been over 36 years since a reporter became White House spokesman, and all indications are that former Time Washington Bureau Chief Jay Carney will have a better go at the podium than former President Gerald Ford’s choice of Detroit News Bureau Chief Jerald terHorst. Thrust into the limelight and unwilling to stay after Ford pardoned former President Nixon for Watergate, terHorst left after a month. Carney, who joined the administration early as Vice President Joe Biden’s communications director, has been around long enough that he won’t be surprised. Picked to replace outgoing spokesman Robert Gibbs, Carney is unique in lacking a political resume. While past spokesmen have essentially been party spokesmen, too, Carney has comfortably covered Republican and Democratic administrations, and the spokesmen from all consider him a friend. He’s taking time getting up to speed on the issues and is reaching out to past press secretaries. Access to top officials will be key, says Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry, who, like Carney, took the job well into the administration. “The key to his success is Barack Obama,” says McCurry. Reagan spokesman Marlin Fitzwater says when an outsider joins the inner circle, “It could be quite difficult. The closest model may be Ari Fleischer, who had no prior experience with President George W. Bush.” And that worked.

  • Read 10 things you didn't know about Jay Carney.
  • See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.
  • See a slide show of Obama's 5 best cabinet secretaries.
  • See a slide show of Obama's 5 worst cabinet secretaries.