Time Magazine's Carney Hired as Biden Spokesman

Jay Carney once talked of his future boss's past gaffes.
Jay Carney once talked of his future boss's past gaffes.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Time magazine's Jay Carney, who said over the summer that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is "incredibly prone to say the wrong thing," will soon be in charge of ensuring that doesn't happen again.

Carney, the magazine's Washington bureau chief, has agreed to become the vice president-elect's director of communications, an Obama transition aide said yesterday. The magazine announced that he was leaving for "a new challenge," but Carney declined to comment on the new job.

In July, before Barack Obama picked the senator from Delaware as his running mate, Carney said on MSNBC that "Biden may be the answer" because of his foreign policy credentials. The "downside," Carney said, is that Biden has said the wrong thing "throughout his career. . . . He's smart, but he speaks -- shoots from the hip and sometimes says just wrong thing at the wrong time."

In September, Carney got into an on-air spat with Nicolle Wallace, Republican candidate John McCain's communications director, over the lack of access to Biden's counterpart, Sarah Palin. After Wallace said the Alaska governor did not necessarily have to take questions from Time or other media outlets, Carney wrote that "in her smug dismissal of the media's role in asking questions of the candidates, Wallace was really showing contempt not for reporters, but for voters."

Early last year, when Biden was a presidential candidate, Carney defended him during a flap over his remark that Obama was "the first mainstream African American" candidate who was "clean" and "articulate." Carney said on "Hardball" that "what Biden was saying, and this is Biden's fault for not being clear in what he was saying in this interview, is that there hasn't been a candidate, a viable African American candidate with all those qualities in one . . . who is mainstream."

Carney, who is married to ABC correspondent Claire Shipman, is the second high-profile journalist to join the Obama team. Former ABC correspondent Linda Douglass became his traveling press secretary during the campaign and is now in charge of communications for the inauguration. The question now is whether there will be more defections from a press corps that was often accused of being soft on candidate Obama.

-- Howard Kurtz

© 2008 The Washington Post Company