Meet the new White House Press Sec: Josh Earnest’s guide to softening “hard-bitten” reporters

Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

Power Players

Josh Earnest stepped up to the podium as the new White House press secretary just weeks ago, but already he’s figured out a few ways to butter up “hard-bitten” White House reporters.

Principle among his methods, the father-to-be revealed to “Power Players,” is to discuss parenthood.

“It’s something that so many people can relate to and hearing the experience of even some hard-bitten White House reporters … talking to them about the birth of their first child, they routinely describe it as the greatest day of their life,” said Earnest, whose wife is due later this summer.

“I think, like all parents who are about to have their first child, we are feeling a lot of trepidation about this experience that we're preparing for, but also incredibly excited,” he said.

The trepidations of first-time parenthood aside, Earnest admits he’s still getting settled into his new job as press secretary – a role he assumed following Jay Carney’s departure last month.

But playing the role of mediator between the White House and the press corps is nothing new to Earnest. He has worked for Obama since the Iowa caucus in 2007 and went on to assume a principal role in White House press office following the president’s election in 2008.

“Having [had] that office right through that door,” Earnest said while gesturing toward his old office that sits directly behind the White House press briefing room, “I often described myself as the option of first resort for a lot of reporters.”

Over his six and a half years working in the White House, the Missouri native has developed a reputation among the press corps as the “Midwestern nice guy.” And now that he’s fielding reporters’ tough questions in the daily press briefings - exchanges which can sometimes be combative - Earnest said he hopes he’ll continue to be thought of as the nice guy.

“I would like it to be,” Earnest said. “I like reporters. Reporters that are working here at the White House have really difficult jobs… One of the things that's old-fashioned about working at the White House is that even in the age of email and Twitter and even telephones, a lot of the interactions that I have with reporters on a daily basis are in person, are face-to-face.”

Though he now has the challenging task of going head-to-head with reporters on a daily basis, there are some definite perks to the new job. For one, Earnest has an unusual level of access to President Obama.

In addition to having a seat at the table for the president’s meetings with senior advisers, President Obama has given Earnest rights to come by the Oval Office whenever he needs to – no appointment necessary.

“The president mentioned to me when he offered me this job … that if I was ever in a circumstance where I needed to speak with him about something, either in advance of a briefing or related to something else that we were handling, that I should come stand outside the Oval Office, and I could walk in and talk to him as necessary,” he said.

It’s a perk that Earnest said he’s only taken advantage of once so far, following some comments the president made alluding to additional financial market regulations.

“Knowing of the market sensitivity of that answer, and knowing that it was only the president himself who knew exactly what he was alluding to, I wanted to make sure that he was comfortable with the answer to that I was prepared to give,” Earnest said.

For more of the interview with Earnest, and to learn about his favorite way to relax outside the high-pressure walls of the West Wing, check out this episode of “Power Players.”

ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Gary Westphalen, Tom Thornton, Hank Brown, and Mary Quinn contributed to this episode.