The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

With State’s Jen Psaki leaving for White House, who will Russian media have to kick around?

Jen Psaki is interviewed in the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki’s move to the White House will leave a huge void in Russian late-night comedy. And Russian online trolling generally.

Psaki – who in her current role is a public face of U.S. foreign policy – has become a punchline for Russian media. So much so that a national broadcast channel launched a nightly show called “Psaki at Night” last month that bashes the West.

The host sits at a desk with a portrait of Psaki lit up behind him. In a recent episode uploaded Wednesday, it’s clear Psaki was a main topic. Our Russian-speaking colleagues, Andre Gziryan and Isabelle Khurshudyan, tell us that the host makes a sarcastic quip about Psaki imparting her “daily wisdom” and mocks her for pretending to know what Ukraine’s interests are.

(We had the video embedded, but minutes after we posted, it was taken down and replaced with a message that it violated “YouTube’s policy against spam, scams, and commercially deceptive content.”)

In Russia, Psaki has become a household name, according to media reports. It’s also a verb – “Psaking” is used to describe being incompetent or not knowing what you’re talking about. Global Voices, a nonprofit that translates international news, described the weird Psaki fixation last year, writing that’s she’s Public Enemy 1 online in Russia and detailing how she’s been mercilessly mocked:

“‘Psaki’ has become a stigmatizing catch-all term for everything Russians dislike about US foreign policy (especially America’s involvement in Ukraine). And Russians’ Psaki-mania is still growing.”

Secretary of State John Kerry even came to her defense on Twitter last spring, with the hashtag: “#attacksareabadgeofhonor.” Later that summer, Psaki repeated her boss’s line to the Wall Street Journal after Russian media critiqued her wearing an orthopedic boot for an injury.

But now, with Psaki taking over communications for the White House, she won’t be in front of the camera as often. Maybe Russia’s fascination with her will wane?

At her daily briefing Thursday, an AP reporter kicked things off by telling her she’ll be missed by the State press corps “and I’m sure your legion of fans around the world.”

“Well…,” she said, as the reporters laughed.

Hey Russia, maybe the joke’s on you.