Awkward Jen Psaki Moments That Were Caught On Camera

When we think about the revolving door that is the White House personnel, it seems as though no high-profile position gets more action than the role of White House press secretary. When Donald Trump was in office, the press secretary title belonged to the likes of Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, with the role concluding with the controversial Kayleigh McEnany — who was serving the then-president amid the January 6 Capitol riots. Of course, the White House's relationship with members of the press was at an all-time high level of tension and chaos, given Trump's relentless bullying of reporters, news outlets, and name-calling. As Joe Biden took office, journalists were looking forward to a return to the old days, when press secretaries balanced the task of informing the press corps while also defending the president. Cue Jen Psaki, who quickly took the podium by storm.

Of Psaki, veteran White House reporter Peter Baker told Vogue, "She's lowered the temperature and gotten us back to a more stable, if adversarial, relationship." And while the chaos was certainly tempered in the press room, Baker told the publication, "The briefings are not exceptionally informative," indicating that there was room for improvement. Psaki didn't stick around long enough to alter Baker's perspective, choosing to leave her post for a job at MSNBC. And while Psaki is no longer working in the White House, she left behind some awkward moments caught on camera.

Jen Psaki had an awkward interaction while spokesperson of the State Department

Before Jen Psaki took on the job as White House press secretary for the Biden administration, she worked as a spokesperson for the State Department — another relatively high-profile position amid the federal government. And while she surely commanded journalists' respect with her thorough answers and quick wit, not every interaction was seamless. As noted by The Guardian back in 2014, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was caught on the phone commenting on a crisis unfolding in Ukraine at the time. Speaking to a United States ambassador, Nuland was heard saying, "F*** the EU [European Union]." Of course, it wasn't a great look for the assistant secretary, and Psaki had to weigh in, given the press attention surrounding the event.

As caught on-camera by NBC News, Psaki tried to bring humor — and a touch of sarcasm — to the story, highlighting Nuland's time spent on a fishing boat and indicating that life on the water impacted her vocabulary. A reporter quickly asked Psaki if she was suggesting Nuland had "the mouth of a sailor," to which Psaki appeared a bit frazzled. Confessing that she was joking, Psaki navigated the awkward interaction as best she could — if she was joking, it certainly didn't land.

Jen Psaki and Peter Doocy got into it over hot dogs

As Jen Psaki began her tenure as White House press secretary, she quickly became synonymous with her quick, on-the-spot thinking and her feud with Fox News's Peter Doocy. Doocy quickly made it his mission to throw curve balls at the press secretary. Psaki, meanwhile, engaged in the at-bat practice and swung back. The result was a high-profile, tense relationship between the two, and they sparred about everything from gas prices to war to barbecues. That's right — in a briefing in July 2021, Psaki and Doocy got into it over July Fourth cookouts and the cost of hot dogs. After the White House tweeted that the cost of a July Fourth cookout was 16 cents less than the year before, Doocy aimed and fired accordingly.

"The official White House account tweeted yesterday the cost of a Fourth of July cookout is down 16 cents from last year — 16 cents?" Doocy said (via YouTube). "Does the White House think that 16 cents off a barbecue has more of an impact on people's lives than gas being a dollar more at this point?"

In response, Psaki didn't mince words. "I would say if you don't like hot dogs, you may not care of the reduction of costs. You don't have to like hot dogs... I will say that what we are most focused on [is] continuing to implement additional components of [Biden's] economic Build Back Better agenda," she reasoned.

The press secretary butted heads over questions about Afghanistan

When troops were officially pulled out of Afghanistan in August 2021, it seemed to mark the end of a war-torn 20 years in the region. And while troop evacuation sounded like a win to some, to others, it set off a chain of events that resulted in chaos. Images and videos were circulated worldwide of local Afghan people trying to board a U.S. Air Force carrier plane, threats from the Taliban increased the levels of anxiety across the world, and eye-widening chaos became the norm (via The New York Times). Amid the dissolving situation, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki faced a barrage of questions from reporters, clamoring for answers as the unruly evacuation played out in real-time, per CNN. Tension arose, and an awkward moment once again occurred between Psaki and Fox News's Peter Doocy.

Doocy asserted to the press secretary that criticism was being lodged against President Joe Biden due to the "way he ordered" the evacuations to happen. In the same breath, Doocy questioned Psaki about the "abandoned" Americans in the unstable region. Not taking the criticism well, Psaki told Doocy that his language was "irresponsible."

"We are committed to bringing Americans who want to come home, home," she said before telling Doocy that she was "calling [him] out" for his characterization of the matter.

Jen Psaki's sarcastic tone left much to be desired after this exchange

To say that COVID-19 changed every aspect of life is a severe understatement. Before March 2020 kicked into gear, we ate out at restaurants, enjoyed concerts, shared wine glasses with friends, and generally lived without too much concern for germs. But then, of course, the world came to a grinding halt and a disease that we knew very little about in the early months ravaged the world. As of publication, more than 6.5 million people have died from the coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic, solidifying now more than ever that COVID-19 has never been a laughing matter.

A massive component of the pandemic that has been difficult to navigate is testing, but under President Joe Biden, at-home tests were available to households (in limited numbers). As the talking head of the administration, Jen Psaki was asked about the at-home tests being provided, with the journalist asking her why more tests weren't being made available (especially given that each testing pack only included two rapid tests). As noted by Slate, Psaki's retort left much to be desired, and her sarcastic tone was seen as an awkward fumbling of sensitive information.

"Should we just send one to every American?" Psaki said in a sarcastic tone, setting fire to a scandal all its own given the perceived callousness of the remark.

The press secretary addressed the COVID testing comment two weeks later

Of all the awkward exchanges that happened on Jen Psaki's watch, her comment about at-home COVID-19 tests left reporters — and viewers — feeling a bit sucker-punched. The remark didn't die down with time, either. About two weeks later, Psaki was once again asked about her previous comments, with one White House press corps member asking her if she had "reflected on [her] tone" following the mini-scandal that had occurred as a result of her tone. While keeping a relatively cool demeanor, Psaki addressed the controversial quip from weeks prior, but it wasn't without a hint of awkward tension.

"I would say there's not a day that goes by that I don't leave this podium and wish I would've said something with greater context or more precision or additional information. And that day there was a lot of good questioning on testing, and during that briefing I conveyed a lot of information about our expansion of testing," Psaki said in part. "Should I have included that additional context again in that answer? Yes, going back, I wish I would have done that."

While the exchange was certainly awkward — and the original comment was incredibly cringeworthy — Psaki appeared to sail through the choppy waters and come out on the other side in one piece.

This exchange over startling claims about assault led to some awkward tension

While Jen Psaki and Peter Doocy seemed to make one-upping each other their goal, the press secretary felt the awkward pressure from other members of the White House press corps regarding matters of controversy. As noted by the Washington Examiner, it was CNN's Kaitlan Collins who spotlighted Psaki during a February 2021 briefing, questioning her about startling allegations against then-White House Junior Deputy Press Secretary TJ Ducklo.

Ducklo, who served under Psaki, engaged in a romantic relationship with a reporter from Axios — such a connection is certainly interesting given the potential conflicts of interest. When Ducklo was questioned about his relationship by Politico's Tara Palmeri, he went on a "sexist tirade" and "threatened" her. As a result of his actions, Psaki was suspended for a week before later resigning (he now works as the chief communications officer for Nashville's mayor, according to The Tennessean). After more than 20 questions were floated past Psaki, Collins asked her about the harassment, with the press secretary awkwardly saying, "I am not saying that [harassment] is acceptable, but it was not an issue related to the White House or a White House policy" (via YouTube). She cut it off from there, but the entire interaction — and the situation at large — was not a good look for Psaki, Ducklo, or the White House.

Jen's admission about Joe Biden was a bit awkward

We have to admit that this next awkward admission was caught on audio, not on-camera, but it's so juicy and so eyebrow-raising that we couldn't help but include it in this roundup. When speaking about a president, a press secretary has to be incredibly careful. Not only do they have to represent the commander-in-chief and speak about White House policy, but they also have to watch their words and realize that in the day and age of spinning, a quote can hit the headlines in a light they didn't anticipate or plan for. This admission was at the forefront of Psaki's conversation with CNN's David Axelrod, who had the press secretary on his podcast, "The Axe Files." Speaking about President Joe Biden during the appearance — as to be expected — Psaki admitted to a somewhat awkward and slightly embarrassing aspect of the president: allowing him to take questions outside of the press room "is not something we recommend."

Furthering her comments, Psaki asserted, "He takes questions nearly every day he's out [with] the press. A lot of times, we say, 'Don't take questions,' but he's going to do what he wants to do because he's the president of the United States."

Why would Psaki not want the president to take questions? Biden has been known for a takedown or two when it comes to clap backs, and he's also made some serious flubs throughout his public life.

The press secretary did not hold back her criticism of Peter Doocy

We've got one more caught on audio that we have to include. Of course, Jen Psaki and Peter Doocy established their dueling tactics in little to no time, and of the Fox News reporter, Psaki didn't hold back — all in all, her comments were tense and a bit awkward for someone who worked as the press secretary at the time.

During an appearance on Crooked Media's "Pod Save America" with host Dan Pfeiffer, Psaki was asked about the flub that President Joe Biden had made, calling Doocy a "stupid son of a b***h" during a hot mic moment. "Is he a stupid son of a b***h, or does he play a stupid son of a b***h on TV?" Pfeiffer asked in front of the live studio audience at Washington's The Anthem.

In response to Pfeiffer's question, Psaki retorted, "He works for a network that provides people with questions that, nothing personal to any individual, including Peter Doocy, but might make anyone sound like a stupid son of a b***h." Clearly, Psaki was on Biden's side.

Reporters from dueling networks teamed up to fact check Psaki in a tense exchange

Election laws and news about the passing of voting legislation is a hot-button topic since the 2020 election. As such, Jen Psaki faced several questions regarding voting laws, specifically regarding Georgia's adopted legal guidelines passed in April 2021. As the state of Georgia implemented the new election laws, President Joe Biden claimed that the amount of time spent voting would be decreased — in no surprise to anyone, Fox News's Peter Doocy asked Psaki about the comment, posing the question, "Is the president going to change the way that he talks about the new Georgia voting law?" after The Washington Post fact-checked Biden's claim (per Mediaite).

Psaki clapped back in response to Doocy's question, stating, "His view is that we need to make it easier and not harder to vote, and that will continue to be what he advocates for," but Doocy wasn't satisfied (via YouTube). And in an awkward — and somewhat surprising — turn of events, CNN's Kaitlin Collins followed up Doocy's initial line of questioning. Of course, Fox News and CNN are high-profile enemies who often don't have a nice thing to say about the other — but in this case, Collins and Doocy confronted Psaki in a one-two-punch way. Psaki had to work double time to smack down any mischaracterization of Biden's sentiment about Georgia, and the whole song and dance were fraught with tension.

Psaki and Doocy put on boxing gloves again over gas prices

Raise your hand if you felt the financial pinch at the gas pump over the summer. While gas prices have gone down nationwide as of publication, the summer hike, thanks to the ongoing war in Ukraine, high demand, and inflation, hurt quite a few bank accounts. As a result, President Joe Biden and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had to shield themselves from a barrage of gas-related questions. Such a line of questioning came from Fox News's Peter Doocy, and the reporter and press secretary once again put their boxing gloves on to go toe-to-toe over gas prices and whom to assign blame. During a March 2022 press briefing, Doocy asserted that gas consumers in the United States were suffering higher prices before the war in Ukraine began, sparring with Psaki, who shot down the sentiment in an awkward and tense display of power (via YouTube).

"The increase and the anticipated continued increase is a direct result of the invasion of Ukraine. And [also] in anticipation of the invasion," Psaki responded. "That was factored in as gas prices have gone up. [Clearly], we will continue to have conversations with large oil producers and suppliers around the world about how to mitigate the impact and consider domestic options as well."

Psaki then pivoted, and told him that if he had more questions, he should promptly ask the oil companies himself.

The duo once again fought over Biden's maskless day out shopping

It seems as though there has always been mixed messaging when it comes to masking mandates. States varied in their handling of masking protocols, businesses tried to assert rules, and the federal government weighed in when it could. As for President Joe Biden, he was spotted in Nantucket shopping around during the 2021 Thanksgiving season without a mask on, and that was all the ammunition Peter Doocy needed to get into yet another awkward confrontation with Jen Psaki. Asking her point-blank why Biden was spotted bare-faced, Doocy asserted, "We saw the president shopping indoors on Saturday behind glass that says face coverings are required, but his face was uncovered. Why?" (via Psaki had none of the Fox News reporter's attitude, and she shot back: "[Biden] follows the recommendations and the advice of the CDC. I don't know what the circumstances were at that particular moment."

If that wasn't enough, Doocy and Psaki continued to exchange heated flames as Biden's COVID-19-related travel restrictions had just been put into place. "Before Joe Biden was president, he said that COVID travel restrictions on foreign countries were 'hysterical,' 'xenophobia,' and 'fearmongering.' So, what changed?" Doocy asked Psaki in the same briefing. Telling the reporter that he wasn't pursuing his line of questioning with "full context," Psaki shot him down and moved on.

Jen Psaki and Peter Doocy sparred even on their last day together

When Jen Psaki announced that she would be leaving her position as White House press secretary, Fox News's Peter Doocy decided he had one card left to play — being nice. That's right. Amid her final days on the job, Psaki called on Doocy to ask what we're sure she assumed to be a sparring question worth an awkward dodge. But no, Doocy expressed his appreciation for Psaki and her dedication to the job.

"Sorry to see you go," Doocy started, to which Psaki responded with a sarcastic (and awkward), "Are you?" Chuckles were admitted across the briefing room, and Doocy furthered his comments. "Yes, and you've always been a good sport. On behalf of everybody, thank you." We were just as shocked as you likely are now. Psaki thanked Doocy for his words before the reporter jumped back into the questioning game with a line about "progressive activists" being too "extreme" as they lobbied against the Supreme Court. Some things never change.