WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Time Magazine reporter Jay Carney will become President Barack Obama’s new top spokesman, White House officials said, rounding out a staff shake-up spurred by Democratic losses in last year’s election.
Bill Daley, Obama’s new business-friendly chief of staff, announced Carney’s appointment along with a slew of other changes in an email to White House staff on Thursday.
Carney, who is currently communications director for Vice President Joe Biden, will replace Robert Gibbs, an Obama confidant, who said previously he would be leaving the White House to give speeches and become an outside adviser for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Gibbs said in an email that a handover would take place in the next few weeks.
Other staff changes included installing Ron Bloom, who headed the White House autos task force, as an assistant to Obama for manufacturing policy and Nancy-Ann DeParle, who helped spearhead the president’s healthcare reform drive, as deputy chief of staff for policy.
Alyssa Mastromonaco will serve as deputy chief of staff for operations and Rob Nabors, a former budget official, will direct the legislative affairs office.
“I believe these decisions will bring greater clarity to our structure and roles and will enhance coordination and collaboration among us,” Daley said in his email.
After Democrats lost seats in the Senate and control of the House of Representatives to Republicans in the 2010 elections, Obama said he had to improve his communication and do a better job of reaching out to the business community.
His staff changes were aimed at doing that.
As press secretary Carney will be Obama’s mouthpiece to the press and the American public.
Ari Fleischer, who was President George W. Bush’s first White House press secretary, said Carney will have to serve two masters — Obama and the press corps — but the president came first.
“His highest obligation is to speak for his boss and to do so accurately. Even though the old adage is true, press secretaries have two bosses, you’re only paid by one of them,” Fleischer told Reuters.
The president reached outside of his inner circle to pick Daley and Carney, who were not members of the close-knit team that moved from Obama’s successful Chicago-based 2008 presidential campaign into the White House.
Carney beat other contenders who have spent more time with the president, including deputy press secretaries Bill Burton and Josh Earnest and deputy communications director Jen Psaki.
Carney is a well-known fixture in Washington, having covered the White House, politics and Congress for years for Time Magazine after a stint in Moscow.
He is married to ABC News correspondent Claire Shipman, also a former White House correspondent.
Carney has been Biden’s communications director since 2009 and was instrumental in helping improve the image of the loquacious vice president, who has a reputation for verbal gaffes.
Editing by Paul Simao and Eric Walsh