Karine Jean-Pierre: The History-Making Lesbian on Biden's Staff
Hey before we get started. I want you to know that. Frank is the musi film for your holiday season. It is the heartwarming coming out and coming of age story written and directed by the academy award winner. Alan ball the film follows. Frank play by paul bethany and his niece bath play by sophia lewis on their journey home to visit their dysfunctional family. The families portrayed by judy. Greer steve zahn. Pierre mac dizzy. Lois smith margo martindale and stephen root amazon studios uncle. Frank is now streaming exclusively on prime video. Just in the president elect has announced the next white house. Communications team includes men in senior positions. Bite office there is so much being said right now about the incoming administrations communication seem to also celebrate. Especially on this podcast. Is that two of the seven names that been announced so far are queer. Airspeed towbar and corinne jean pierre. We're going to have to queer women of color in the white house and leadership positions acting as the face and voice of our government. It's wild that think about and for that reason. I wanted to bring you this interview. That i did with corinne that originally aired on a luminary app. We spoke almost exactly a year ago. When corinn's book moving forward was first published. The message of book is that all of us no matter what you might think of as a typical background or story for politician. All of us have a police in politics. If corinne jean-pierre a queer woman of color who immigrated to the us as a kid can make it in politics. She says so can you. When we spoke corinne was also appearing as a political analyst on nbc and msnbc. So you'll hear talk about that. As well as what she learned working for a wide wide wide array of politicians including john edwards anthony weiner and of course resident barack obama from the advocate magazine and partnership glad. I'm jeffrey masters. And this is lgbtq. And here's shop. Thank you for having me. Of course excited thank you. Let's jump in right that your story is not the typical political story. You're immigrant you're a woman or one of color you're a and that is not what we typically see in politics. Yeah and yet. I think it's easy to soon. That's changing with high profile examples. Like alexandria ocasio cortez omar and yet. Those are very much outliers right. Yes nor it is the norm and and like you were saying. I walk in so many different communities if you will like i present so many different communities and that was one of the parts of writing this book i wanted to. I think people get really afraid when a here politics and getting into politics or getting involved and so that's one part of it and they think the other part of it is that people always ask me even young people. They ask me all the time. I teach at columbia university. So i have young people taking my class yearly. And they say how did you get here. How did you get into the white house. Like how did you work in politics and get a different presidentials. So the purpose of the book is also to show. There's not one path and also as a person of color gay person a woman an immigrant. I wanted to show people who are all. Those things are one of those things like. Hey you know she did it. I can do it too. So i lay that out in a very detailed way. You know as an immigrant. I grew up being told. Oh you're going to be one of those three professions doctor lawyer or engineer. And that's i think anybody who's listening in. I grew up in an immigrant. Family could understand that and that didn't work out. I talk about that in the book. And then i talk about. I didn't get into politics until my mid twenties. And so but you're right. there's representation matters and there's not a lot of representation. Even now there are like aol see as you just mentioned others kind of outliers. It's still a very small percentage of women of color of people from different identities that are more diverse that's in the political arena. So the hope is that can encourage inspire people to not be afraid of the word politics And to just get involved because the way you make change is if you get involved you're yourself and you know watching tv even though you don't mention being gay every time it is a part. It is no secret nearly no. I've been out for a long long time. Yeah and i think that's something that is easy to see about you. Bring that up because i. I think there's a tension between you bring. Being gay does not need to come up in every conversations right. Yeah and yet. I think it so powerful to know that there is escape on tv. Like i also want you to for. He never really. I'm so glad you brought that up. Because i think about that sometimes because i'm like i'm out. It's not hard to know that. I'm that i'm out. I talk about my daughter. I talk about my partner in interviews. And it's out there but i don't lead with that you know it's like it's part of my multiple identities. I have multiple identities at so. It's a very interesting kind of way to be in the space and it's actually kind of funny when people are like. I didn't know you were gay. And i'm like how do you not know i'm gay. I've been out for a long time the like. Wow and so it's just. It's funny. But i am aware of it. I am conscious of it. I want to respect all of said all of the communities i represent in. Were you to bring it up every episode out. Say like oh my god. She brings every time he was like. What's wrong receiver. Don't bring up at like one like she didn't bring yeah. It's like you. Yeah yeah it's over. I don't know how people like majority of people feel about it. But i i just want to lead with my experience and kind of my smart. There's a reason at this table and everything else just complements me. you know. that's a great point. Yeah you know. We've mentioned the white house couple of times. Can you just explain for everybody. What your role was. Yeah so that was one of the most amazing opportunities I will never forget working in the white house for the first black president you know and i i miss those days. Yeah you know working in the white house you felt the responsibility. You felt the weight of the country on your shoulders the weight of the world and you wanted to be good at your job and not screw it up because you knew at least for me. I knew that. I was represent everything that i was doing. I was representing president. Barack obama if i went out and talk to people in different states picked up the phone i was representing barack obama and That experience was really wonderful. I worked in the white house office of political affairs. I was the northeast political director. And basically what that meant is i base managed the politics in about i think eleven or twelve states in the northeast and i had to have my finger on the pulse of what was going on and what people were saying. You know how people were feeling about the presidency and political specific political events. I've traveled with him and the vice president sometimes the first lady and also anytime we had to talk to a governor or mayor political figure in the state. I was the one managing that relationship and if he were to go into like new york or massachusetts or pennsylvania which was one of the states Having meetings with political figures. I was in the room i was with him. I was doing briefings. And i was briefing him. Writing memo's it was just amazing job. Amazing i was there the first two years which was i would argue the most hectic years. It was just an amazing experience so similar to my question about talking about being gay on tv. How open or not where you work in the white house. Oh wow. I was pretty open by then. We're talking about two thousand nine. Yeah i was pretty open. I was not i was out. I even did It gets better for the white house it gets better video and I was One of the people who produced it. And i was. I was also told my story on tape on video so i was out. I mean i had a partner at the time. She had been to the white house a couple of times with me for events by then i was. It was not a i was out. Yeah so barack obama during his first campaign and the first term of his presidency. He very finley stated that he was not in favor of gay marriage. Yeah i remember that yeah with like a work for during so it was so it was hard because back then in two thousand seven In that president in two thousand eight presidential election pretty much everybody i think was There was one candidate that was for gay marriage But everybody had the same kind of mentally around it and it was. Because i and it did bother me. I walked around really feeling a little bit like i wasn't appreciated or accepted. I worked for john edwards. I in two thousand seven then in two thousand eight He dropped out that. I went to go work for obama. I think for many of us who were out who were gay. It was part of politics. That was difficult. Are you saying that at that time. An anti gay marriage stance was not unusual. It wasn't unusual. Calm in. yeah you know. I think cinch maybe that was the only one who's running at that time for it. Do you think that barack obama being in favor of gay marriage wall. You'll still president is one of the things that turn the tide so quickly. I think so absolutely i never thought about that. I yeah i think so. I think when obama came out. And i think it was twenty eleven. Twenty two thousand twelve. Okay with twenty two right before the election. It's a tied at set a wave. I think when you have the president of the united states commander in chief a black man Making such a powerful strong statement. It doesn't mess message and He's you know popular people. respect him. you're talking about. Bring him bringing along. Also the religious community the black religious community and so that that was an important move When he did that because the now it's kind of amazing that and four short years no democratic candidate could've been anti gay marriage. Yeah yeah now now. You can't like now. It's like it's it's it would be out of step. Looks very out of step and to be fair to vice president biden and he was the one that i i don't know if you remember in two thousand twelve. He came out first and supported Marriage equality and then obama did. That's pretty unique for them to split like that and you know biden is an older irish catholic Man and he was there so in two thousand twelve. When barack obama announced that his position changed or ball yeah he slated conversations with friends. Family co workers. Yeah how victory. I would assume so because when i left you know like i said i was out Was no secret. And when i left the white house to go work in the administration you do this. Oval office kind of goodbye with the president. You take a picture with with the president and your your family. And i brought my girlfriend at the time and He knew i was going to go to move to chicago to work on the election. So it was you know he was very respective of it. You know very very respected. Very supportive of our relationships. Everyone who was there that that had a same sex partner and i think he was always ready. I don't think he was. I don't think he wasn't. I think it's the being out. Publicly was the step that he took but he was always in support of us. You're saying was a political calculation. I mean that's you know that's the it's politics right. That's kind of the name of the game. But i think he was hoping to move helped move the country with where he was. You know. it's like you kind of have to get the country there or you know people feeling where you know get them to educate them and get them to that point and then he came out publicly. That's fascinating now with the girlfriend. You mentioned yeah. I don't want to move past that because you broke that you got to work at the white house around seven. Am you didn't leave before nine pm. Yeah janda that if your boss email you at two. Am aspect of response. Yeah that just sounds horrible to me. It's tough it's tough surprise. You were able to maintain a relationship not very well. Why she's an ex girlfriends ex-girlfriends for many reasons but that's one of the particular. Yeah it's hard you twelve hour days or more six seven days a week and there's a task at hand it is helping to run the country helping to push you know the platform of the president and do the people's business. I mean that is what it calls for you know. Now you're a mom. Yeah could you even have considered having kids know. Our daughter is five years old. She's amazing wonderful kid and if you had told me six years ago seven years ago hey corinne you're gonna live in the suburbs. You gotta have a child. You're going to have this wonderful amazing partner. You're going to have a dog and you're going to live in a cold and it's going to be wonderful and amazing i would have said. Are you kidding me. Because i spent the last ten years of my life working on campaigns one campaign from another campaign not staying at a job all that long because of the campaign component and what that means sleeping on different couches living in one city for three months once for six months and so it is it was just not something that i never saw myself being in one plays raising a child and what that all meant and having a loving partner and i have that and so i'm i'm shocked. I'm shocked that. I have the lifetime down. I'm happy one hundred and ten percent. That is so funny. Yeah your experience. In politics. With john edwards and anthony weiner both of those people had really high profile scandals. Yeah since that was your initial entry into politics part of you ever wonder if that is just how all politicians are so. It's interesting because i. I have a have a chapter call flawed candidates and i bring it up because any any young person who's in politics. They may have to deal with something like that and one of the things that we do. Is we elevate people. We put them on. A pedestal and people are flawed. No one is perfect and so. That's something that i talk about. It and i also want young people to be able to take care of this themselves if you have a flawed candidate and what does that mean. So when i worked for anthony weiner it was before carlos danger and all of all of the insanity and the really quite awfulness of what happened there. He was when i worked for him. It was three months in two thousand eight was between the edwards dropping out and obama and working on obama and he was the darling he was actually the darling of the democratic party. People thought he was gonna run for mayor. Maybe senator one day governor but they had high hopes for him because he was great communicator. That's always something that i say about him. He was he was a hard worker. Communicator wrote. He's one of the most gifted politician. I he is one of the most gifted politicians i've ever ever seen just watching him his press secretary at the time and i happen to leave because somebody from that. I worked on the edwards campaign. Who is now with the obama campaign getting ready at the time to get the general election ready reached out and she said hey. Do you want to move to chicago and worked in the general election for obama. I said yes. And i left. So i wasn't there for very long but i wanted to bring that up and talk about fly candidates now edwards kind of the same the new. I was working for edwards and there was the national enquirer had broke The story that he had an affair but it was denied. Nobody really believed it was kind of weird because and also it's the national enquirer so it was it was kind of murky and then months later it was proven to be to be true and so much more came so much more came after that in context i wasn't there when they were quote unquote flawed. But i know that it's something that sits on my resume. Right worked for anthony weiner and i worked for john edwards so i wanted to put that in the in the book because we do this thing of elevating people and people are flawed and we should care more about their platform and their issues and what they're pushing out more than the person and it's hard because politics is is that game you know. It's really the person that we look at. Yeah and i think a lot about what makes a good politician verse. What makes somebody want to be a politician. And like i think he wrote about in your book but like i have to wonder if like a massive ego is just requirement i think it is i think narcissism ego plays a big role. I mean just think about it. You think that you are the best person to run the free world for example right. You think you're the only one that could change you know. Change the country or move it into a certain direction that takes a lot of ego. It takes a lot of narcissism I think that is is part of the ingredient. And i think to look something that i uh z. Is that like what our of egos is gender to bet. Because i see women having an issue and like what i can identify is it appears to be like a lack of ego when also we don't allow women have an ego but we demand it like run for president. Yeah it's it's interesting because you think life would be so much better of women had women would be able to run the country altogether. But i think there's a couple of things that play into that i think yes. I think there is some bias sees when it comes to gender biases when it comes to we say already for a woman president and then we're really an odd but i remember in two thousand sixteen. There were focused groups During that election and women were asked some women to ask. Oh you know what you think about. Pre potential president clinton about her candidate san. They say a woman should not be you know. It's not a woman. Women can't be president so there is there. Is this kind of old school. Thinking that i think truly exists out there. I thought that the flawed politician chapter was interesting. Because here are really talented politicians. John anthony weiner of bill clinton to a certain extent. They're amazing politicians. Who also have this need to at best. Behave in appropriately at worse behave illegally owned. It's like if they could just get rid of that like personal life and he showed up and so hot too high regard. Yeah it's it's disappointing. I mean this is the point. It's like people are human and they're flawed. You know and want to understand that people are not perfect and that's the problem with elected officials with people and political space. We tend to lift him up in that regard you know and we forget their flight. You know not. Everyone is perfect. They're human you know they're not superheroes as a naturalized citizen. Do you think of a different view on politics Well i'll say this. Both my parents were born in haiti. i was born in martinique. They grew up in a dictatorship. And so i think in this current moment when you have a president that seems to love dictators more than our allies and praises dictators and ignores our allies growing up in a haitian household. You're very aware of what it means to live. In a dictatorship and so one of the things that i worry about is our democracy. We are a young democracy. Two hundred and forty two hundred fifty years old. And i don't think people realize that you know hearing those stories and knowing the history of by the country of my parents birth so a level of fear that i understand That i worry about. Because i have that history. So that's my biggest biggest concern. And i think that also motivates me to really try to inspire and motivate others to get involve in politics. Does it motivate you. Want to run for office. I get asked that question all the time. Oh shocks so. I've thought about it in the past. That's like my most honest answer right now for me. I want to get him out in twenty like the focus is getting people energized. Getting people out there making sure like we take back our country and twenty twenty. And then after that i can figure out. What's next for me. Like i said i teach I teach at a university Grad students and undergrad students and they asked me for advice. All the time and the advice that i give them as follow your passion. Follow what you believe in what moves you and everything else will come. Because i i truly believe that's true. Okay let me push back for a second because you in the book. Describe yourself as a late bloomer. I think like early on you did not know what your passion. So what do you tell a student. Who's in that position. And i tell them it's okay. I tell them i. It's good to be a late. Bloomer it's good to get that experience. Don't stress yourself out don't You don't feel like you have to be like everybody else. You are your own person you know. And that's that's part of the book too. It's like you will find your own path and once you find it you'll take off what happened to me once i found by pat my passion and was excited about it clearly. Because it's your passionate about it. I took off and in a few short years. I ended up in the white house. I mean that is. That's what i mean. You know you go with where your heart is and even you know when you when you asked me about running for for for office right now. I'm doing my passion. My passion is working for progressive organization. That's part of this resistance that we call it in the past three years and being on tv and having a voice in having a platform. And i love it. I love it. Because i making a difference and being a voice for people who feel like they don't have a voice and that's my passion and everything you just described also gives you time to have a family. It's hard but Yeah i mean you know. I'm you know on a book tour. I'm gone gone for days and days and days and it's hard because i have not seen my little one but yeah you know i. I think the reason that i'm saying. And i'm not stressed-out or i'm not like you know having a crazy crazy time of it in the past three years. Is i have a family you know i have. I can take a break. And i forced myself to take a break and focus on you know my partner and my daughter and our dog and do family things and it is. It is good to be loved and know that there's a place of love to go to and it's good to be supportive and it's good to have that escape and i i sat because i think there's a sense in in the united states today that you can be career ambitious but to be like family and personal life. Ambitious is less like socially acceptable talk about. I push people to do it. It matters it matters to. I think it's great to be you know. Career career wise focus and ambitious. There's nothing wrong with that. And i was. I was like that. Like i said earlier for you know until six years ago and it's changed my life. It's made me a lot happier. And maybe some people they don't want that it's just great. I mean i don't wanna push family on me you know it's not for everyone and i totally understand that in. Sometimes someone's career makes them really happy when they're in one hundred percent or just achieving whatever goals they have for themselves absolutely. Yeah i don't want to push family on people just the push. I wanna ask more questions. We're almost out of time. But you right that you still feel hopeful about the future of america and i think that contradicts a little bit of what you said about the dictator. You're scared out so you just mind explaining that a bit. Yeah so. I'll go back to twenty seventeen inauguration day and I was part of part of a broadcast and i was giving my political commentary. The next day the women's march happened and hundreds of thousands of women Descended on washington dc. I got to see it. I got to talk about it on. Tv and it was inspiring and the next weekend we had the muslim ban which was awful but then people showed up organically at airports and protested and offered their services. And you know. Then you fast forward to the repeal of aca you had people who showed up and put their bodies on the line like the disability communities and many other communities and said no. We're not gonna repeal. Aca there has just been moment. After moment families belong together there was a family becomes together. This is connected to twenty eighteen when we learned about the zero tolerance policy where the trump administration was separating babies from their parents at the border and people came together and they said this is not the country that we to be. And so i. I have seen these wonderful moments that give me hope while i'm as you said about what. What donald trump means to our democracy long-term there is hope and i think that's kind of where i fall there. I think i see. I see it and i know it exists and i think we can be hopeful. You just have to work and that was korean. John air really serving as a brand new principal. Deputy press secretary in the biden white house now if you enjoyed the interview. Please make sure that you're subscribed and please will spread the word and social media. The podcast is everywhere at lgbtq pod. I'm also everywhere at jeff masters one. I love hearing from you and connecting every week but also when you post about us when you text your friends about us loser all the biggest ways you can help. Our show continued to grow and continue to exist to be completely honest. So thank you thank you. Thank you so much to everyone. Who does that or brought to you by the advocate magazine in partnership glad. Come check out all of our amazing work at advocate dot com and glad dot org. I'm jeffrey masters. And i will see you next week. With adam. eli the activists in community organizer. It is another great conversation so do not want to miss it all right. I'll see that.