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The White House press secretary receives a new bulletproof vest: a women’s blazer

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According to a long-standing bipartisan tradition, decades of White House press officers have passed on a cheeky symbol of their job when responding to rat-a-tat requests from feisty reporters: a bulletproof vest.

The ritual dates back to the 1970s, when Gerald Ford press secretary Ron Nessen received a men’s blue brocade vest with bulletproof lining from reporters. He left it to his successor with a note: You will need it during some of your briefings.

In Washington fashion, a gag gift has turned into a revered ritual. But the garment, which later was a dark-colored men’s blazer, sometimes went missing, often between administrations.

That’s how Jen Psaki, on one of her last days as President Bidens’ press secretary, found herself stalking a Macys looking for a replacement jacket. She found one, with a modern twist.

The new body armor, which now hangs in an office in the West Wing, is a Tommy Hilfiger women’s blazer, size 16, in Hi-Liter yellow, with contrast welt pockets and elbow patches.

It’s a women’s jacket, Ms. Psaki said in an interview. But it’s big enough for any size man.

The change seemed appropriate.

Karine Jean-Pierre, who started as Ms Psakis’ successor on Monday, is the fifth consecutive woman to serve as White House press secretary, a streak that began with Sarah Huckabee Sanders in 2017.

Until Bill Clinton appointed Dee Dee Myers in 1993, the role was held exclusively by men. Dana Perino served under George W. Bush, but Barack Obama only appointed men to this position.

No jacket was waiting for Ms Psaki when she started in January 2021; he apparently got lost in the tumult of a presidential transition.

Jen is doing the press secretary’s office a real service by replacing a wonderful tradition, Ms Perino wrote in an email.

The next step is to restore the handwritten notes of former press secretaries, a collection of advice, humor and sympathy that was apparently lost when the last jacket is gone.

Ari Fleischer, who served as George W. Bush’s press secretary, said in an interview that he kept copies of the notes, which were supposed to be wrapped in red ribbon and stored in jacket pockets. He is in contact with Mrs. Psaki to reunite the notes with their brightly colored new home.

It doesn’t matter what it looks like or what it’s made of, Mr. Fleischer said of the jacket. It will never work, because there is not enough protection for a White House press secretary.

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