Josh Earnest was named White House press secretary five weeks ago, after Jay Carney stepped down.
Earnest, 37, was born and raised in Kansas City and his parents still live here.
“His name describes his demeanor,” President Obama said of Earnest when he was named to the job. “Josh is an earnest guy and you can’t find just a nicer individual, even outside of Washington.”
The Kansas City Star profiled Earnest in May, a piece that described him as “affable and accessible.”
He grew up in the Red Bridge neighborhood with two younger brothers. His mother, Jeanne, is a psychologist, and his father, Don, is the athletic director at Pembroke Hill School. Earnest attended the Barstow School, a private secondary school, on a scholarship, where he played baseball and basketball.
So when Obama came to Kansas City this week, I got a chance to talk to Earnest, although he stayed behind in Washington and called us from his West Wing office. He’s been busy on that phone, as the guy who called the four Kansas City residents and broke the news that they were having dinner with the president.
I threw the baseball fan a few softballs, and teased him about his most recent, um, honor, named to the 50 Most Beautiful List on Capitol Hill. His response? It gives great fodder for his two younger brothers to tease him at family functions, he said.
I did, however, get tough and made him go on the record on some quintessential Kansas City questions.
From our interview:
Q: So what were your top secret tips for Obama’s Kansas City visit this week?
“I told him that summer nights in Kansas City, that if he could get out and walk around, that he should do that. I don’t think he got that much time to do that, it appears. But I know he got to spend some time on the tarmac visiting with people when he landed at the airport and got out to Arthur Bryant’s, which was another one of my suggestions. There are a lot of good barbecue joints in Kansas City, so I’m not playing favorites here, but as he was considering some options and as the advance team was considering some options, I encouraged him to make sure that was on the list. “
Q: Did you hear that they ran out of coleslaw? Which is so unfortunate.
“I did hear about that. I don’t know how that can happen.”
Q: My second very tough question: do you get sick of being described as ‘Midwestern nice?’
“No, what I want to make sure of is that I want to make sure that people don’t think they can take advantage of that. I don’t think in the Midwest people think that, people don’t mistake the ‘nice’ for being a push over. I think the people that I’ve worked with here in the White House understand that that’s not the case as well.
“There are not a lot of people in Washington, D.C. that are from Kansas City. There are a few other people. We have a little bit of a club here. …People, particularly in the last four or five weeks, since my home town has become more prominent with my new job, people come up to me more regularly and say, ‘I’m from Kansas City, too.’”
The KC Lightning Round
(To hear the reasons behind Earnest’s choices, listen to the audio above.)
George Brett or Len Dawson? George Brett.
Town Topic or Winsteads? Winsteads.
Funnyman Jason Sudeikis or funnyman Paul Rudd? Jason Sudeikis.
Westport or the Plaza? Plaza.
A game at Kauffman Stadium or Allen Fieldhouse? Royals game at Kauffman Stadium.
Loose Park or Swope Park? Swope Park.
Boulevard or Free State? Boulevard.
“Wizard of Oz” or “Kansas City Bomber?” Wizard of Oz.
Minsky’s or Waldo Pizza? Minsky’s.
Scott Horsley, NPR reporter, or Lynn Horsley, Kansas City Star reporter? Scott Horsley.