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President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance in the White House Briefing Room on Friday to announce the departure of Press Secretary Jay Carney after more than three years in the post.

Obama praised Carney, his second press secretary, and announced the selection of Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest as his choice to be the next press secretary. Earnest joined Obama’s first presidential campaign in Iowa in 2007, and will take control of the ceremonial flak jacket next month.

“As you know, his name describes his demeanor,” Obama said of his new press secretary. “Josh is an earnest guy, and you can’t find just a nicer individual, even outside of Washington.”

Carney was previously the director of communications for Vice President Joe Biden and is the longest-serving press secretary since Mike McCurry in the Clinton White House. Carney is also a former Washington bureau chief for TIME.

Paying tribute to Carney, Obama called him “one of my closest friends in Washington.”

“I’m going to miss him a lot,” Obama added. “I’m going to continue to rely on him as a friend and advisor.”

Carney said he is excited about his options after leaving the White House, but ruled out speculation that he would accept the vacant post of U.S. Ambassador to Moscow. “I can assure you that my family, having won me back, would not be happy with that outcome,” he said.

Obama’s first press secretary, Robert Gibbs, now runs a strategic communications consultancy and has a contributor contract with cable network MSNBC.

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