United Hires Former White House Press Secretary to Be Its Communications Chief
In a move to help restore its image after several public relations blunders, United Airlines announced on Thursday that it's hired former Obama administration press secretary Josh Earnest as its senior vice president and chief communications officer.
At United, Earnest will be responsible for developing the company's global communications strategy, leading a team that will executive the strategy and working closely with the company's leadership to shape its public image. Earnest will be the company's chief spokesman.
Once Earnest takes over the role on May 21, he will have replaced United's former communications head Jim Olsen, who stepped down after just two years on the job. During Olsen's time at the company, United's public image was tattered by a number of incidents. Most notably, Olsen was at the helm during the infamous April 2017 Dr. David Dao dragging incident.
In the aftermath of the Dao incident, things didn't improve much for United. Most recently, in March 2018, a dog was killed on board a United Airlines plane when a flight attendant required that the dog be stored in an overhead bin.
By bringing in Earnest, United's clearly hoping to improve its tarnished image. Prior to coming to United, Earnest served from 2014 to 2016 as press secretary for President Barack Obama. Since his tenure at the White House ended in 2016, Earnest has since worked as a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.
"Josh is a proven leader and world-class communications strategist who has thrived when the stakes are the highest — and the margin for error is the smallest," said United CEO Oscar Munoz.
Earnest and his family will relocate to Chicago this summer.