Jen Psaki leaving White House, Biden names 1st Black, openly gay press secretary to replace her

Deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was named as Psaki's successor.

After a year and a half at the podium, White House press secretary Jen Psaki is planning to leave the White House on May 13, and her current deputy, Karine Jean-Pierre, will be her replacement, President Joe Biden announced Thursday.

In a historic pick, Jean-Pierre will be the first Black, and first openly gay person to hold the position of White House press secretary.

"Karine not only brings the experience, talent and integrity needed for this difficult job, but she will continue to lead the way in communicating about the work of the Biden-Harris Administration on behalf of the American people. Jill and I have known and respected Karine a long time and she will be a strong voice speaking for me and this Administration," Biden said in a statement.

Beaming with pride and telling reporters she might cry, Psaki called her replacement up to the podium at the top of Thursday's briefing to formally introduce Jean-Pierre, whom she called a friend and "partner in truth."

"She will give a voice to so many," Psaki said, noting her place in history, "and show so many what is truly possible when you work hard and dream big."

But Psaki said she also wanted to make clear Jean-Pierre's qualifications to the American people, detailing how she got her start in New York City politics before serving on several campaigns, in the Obama–Biden administration and as a longtime adviser to Biden and the first lady.

"I will have a lot to say about how grateful I am for the trust the president and the first lady and the whole team have given me and entrusted me in the last 15 months -- but this day is about Karine and I want to celebrate her," Psaki said.

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder and clasping hands, Psaki said she and Jean-Pierre agreed when they started working at the White House to build a "drama-free" workplace focused on "rebuilding trust with the public."

"And I am just so grateful to have had Karine by my side for this, over the last 15 months and I just can't wait to see her shine at the podium. So congratulations, and I can't wait to see you bring your own style and brilliance to this job," Psaki said.

Almost one year ago to the day, Jean-Pierre anchored her first White House briefing, where ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce asked her about making history at the podium.

"It’s a real honor to be standing here today," Jean-Pierre said. "I appreciate the historic nature, I really do, but I believe that being behind this podium, being in this room, being in this building, is not about one person. It’s about what we do on behalf of the American people."

The first Black woman to address journalists in the press briefing room was Judy Smith, a deputy press secretary for President George H.W. Bush, but she was not carrying the press office's top title when she took the podium in 1991 -- as Jean-Pierre soon will.

"Clearly the president believes that representation matters, and I appreciate him giving me this opportunity, and it’s another reason why I think we are all so proud that this is the most diverse administration in history," she added last year.

Psaki has long said she would leave the White House press office sometime this year, and Biden thanked her for "raising the bar" during in her tenure.

"Jen Psaki has set the standard for returning decency, respect and decorum to the White House Briefing Room. I want to say thank you to Jen for raising the bar, communicating directly and truthfully to the American people, and keeping her sense of humor while doing so. I thank Jen her service to the country, and wish her the very best as she moves forward," Biden said in Thursday's statement.

Psaki didn't comment on her plans, but if Psaki lands at NBC News next, as Axios has reported, it would follow a similar path to former Biden-Harris administration adviser Symone Sanders, who left last year to start a show on MSNBC.

ABC News' Molly Nagle contributed to this report.