As the White House communications director, Kate Bedingfield arguably has the most coveted strategic communications job in the world. She’s been with President Joe Biden for over a decade and has long been a proud admirer and protector of his legacy. Yet, like chief of staff Ron Klain and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, she’s leaving the administration.
Bedingfield says her most notable experience with the president was the night Russia invaded Ukraine. She vividly recalls getting President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Biden on the phone and listening to Biden assure his Ukrainian counterpart that he would do whatever it took to provide support amid the Russian attack. Biden made it very clear that the U.S. stood with Ukraine.
She spearheaded communications for Joe Biden as a vice president, as a presidential candidate and now as a president.
Perhaps that is why Bedingfield felt confident in her decision to step down now, after completing one of her final and most important assignments. Bedingfield was one of three people who facilitated the president’s highly secret, surprise visit to Kyiv last week, where he walked alongside Zelenskyy to mark the one-year anniversary of the war and remind the world that American support in the region is unwavering.
I sat down with Bedingfield on the eve of her departure to learn more about those details, as well as her White House highs, lows, regrets and frustrations. She explained how much she loved the way her role at the White House enabled her to call on the foremost experts on every possible subject. And I was curious to hear about her next move. A role like hers is not easily replicated.
But for most of our conversation, she focused on the daily demands of her job. She spearheaded communications for Joe Biden as a vice president, as a presidential candidate and now as a president. But she hasn’t been able to put herself first. As a mother of two children, now 8 and 5, her family has been along for an unconventional and exciting ride. Not many toddlers can say they spent hours running around the campaign headquarters of a future U.S. commander in chief or recall potty-training while mom was taking calls from the vice president. Her family life has been an enormous work-life juggle since day one. It’s been a privilege, but Bedingfield is hoping her next phase will provide the one experience she’s missed out on: normalcy.
Now, Bedingfield will be able to wake up without two phones on her nightstand and a barrage of news to digest before breakfast.
Now, she will not have the distinguished honor of getting dropped off at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
It’s been a privilege, but Bedingfield is hoping her next phase will provide the one experience she’s missed out on: normalcy.
Instead, she’ll be the one doing the drop-off at school, arriving at a pre-booked SoulCycle class on time, and possibly even seeing a friend for lunch. For her next travel assignment, she’ll be swapping Ukraine for Colorado and going skiing with family and friends. It’s unclear how long Bedingfield will stay in this new lane, but it’s clear that she and her family are excited about this re-prioritization and change of pace.
As I left the White House on Tuesday, I remembered having a similar conversation with Hope Hicks, the communications director during the Trump administration. We met in New York City shortly after she left that job, and she told me she was keen to keep working with a “Trump type” in the business world. She aspired to be the right-hand consigliere for an “international business tycoon,” which is how she characterized her former boss. Soon after, Hicks moved to Los Angeles to work for Fox.
Bedingfield has very different post-White House aspirations, at least for now. But she made it clear during our interview that she remains loyal to Biden. She’s on his speed dial, and I would not be surprised to see Kate Bedingfield return to the West Wing or the campaign trail if her former boss picked up the phone and called.