Joe Biden’s first White House press secretary Jen Psaki began her new MSNBC program on Sunday by telling the audience, “It’s a hell of a week of launch a new show.”
She was talking about the big news of the weekend: Donald Trump’s potential arrest and his call on his supporters to protest, and that she led with it was to be expected, given MSNBC’s long focus on the alarm of the former president.
Still, with Inside with Jen Psaki, her challenge will be to make a mark and standout moments in a very crowded group of Sunday Beltway programs.
Her left-of-center POV and experience as a communications strategist make her a natural fit for the network’s opinion show audiences, but with this show she is going beyond the role of NBC News pundit to that of cable host, a transition that requires the skills of an interviewer and the ease of an engaging personality. As all news networks struggle to retain audiences (particularly younger audiences), clearly MSNBC is hoping that Psaki will be poised to transition to larger roles at the network, akin to Nicolle Wallace, now a daytime mainstay.
Psaki’s show has been slotted at noon ET, after many of the broadcast network Sunday shows have aired, putting the onus on her show to find a unique take on the Trump story.
Keying up an interview with her first guest House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Psaki ran a clip from Mike Pence’s appearance on ABC News’ This Week earlier in the morning, as the former vice president blasted Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg’s potential prosecution of Trump.
Jeffries said that Pence “knows better and he has embarrassed himself and that is unfortunate,” and he said that the New York prosecutors should just be allowed to “do their job.”
This was largely friendly territory for Jeffries: he was given ample time for Democratic talking points. Jeffries also was not asked about an issue of the past few weeks: friction within the Democratic caucus as Biden moves to the center on certain issues ahead of a potential 2024 presidential run.
Psaki’s questions were not prosecutorial, but her queries were not superficial, either. She did press Jeffries on whether Democrats would participate in House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s vow, in a tweet on Saturday, to have committees investigate if federal funds are being used to make “politically motivated prosecutions.” Jeffries didn’t directly answer, but said he would leave it to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Stacy Plaskett (D-VI), the top Democrat on the special “weaponization of government” committee.
(Excerpt) Read more in: Deadline