The White House press briefing room erupted on Monday after a reporter from an Africa-focused outlet accused press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre of making a “mockery of the First Amendment.”
Jean-Pierre stepped to the briefing room podium followed by the cast of the Apple TV series “Ted Lasso,” who was visiting the White House to meet with President Joe Biden about mental health awareness. Soon after taking the stage, Jean-Pierre was pelted with accusations of discrimination from Today News Africa correspondent Simon Ateba.
Jean-Pierre tried to hush Ateba. “We’re not doing this,” she told him repeatedly.
Ateba pressed forward: “You’ve been discriminating against me. You’ve been discriminating against some people in the briefing room. And I’m saying that this is the U.S. This is not China, this is not Russia.”
“What you are doing, you are making a mockery of the First Amendment,” Ateba continued over protests from others in the briefing room. “It’s been seven months. You have not called on me. I’m saying that’s not right.”
White House staff as well as other reporters told Ateba repeatedly to be quiet, accusing him of being disrespectful of the briefing room and to the other reporters.
“Sir, let it go,” someone said.
“Decorum, please!” another yelled.
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Ateba eventually quieted down and the press briefing began with remarks from Jean-Pierre and “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis. After Sudeikis’ comments, the actor and the rest of his co-stars left the room.
After the cast departed, Ateba again launched into Jean-Pierre.
“You can’t keep discriminating against some people in the briefing room because you don’t like them, you don’t like their questions,” he said. “That’s not right. This is not China, this is not Russia. This is the United States.”
Others in the room were apparently fed up with Ateba’s commotion.
“The rest of us are here too, pal,” someone snarked.
“If you have grievances, you should being them to her later,” another stated.
“It isn’t always about you, Simon,” said another.
Ateba continued undaunted, “I understand that you get questions all the time and you don’t understand what it is to sit here for eight months and be discriminated against. I understand that you’re in the front row … and you get questions all the time, but there are people in the back who don’t get any questions.”
A reporter in the briefing room then lashed out at Ateba: “Don’t make assumptions about what the rest of us do, mind your manners when you’re in here, if you have a problem bring it up afterwards, but you are impinging on everybody in here who’s only trying to do their job.”
After a couple more exchanges, Ateba ended his tirade. Jean-Pierre then lectured the briefing room over what had just transpired.
“As you all know, many of you know, this is the White House press briefing room, a historic room, a room that should have decorum, a room where folks should respect their colleagues and respect the guests that are here. And I understand that there is going to be give and take,” Jean-Pierre said. “I will always respect that. But what I will not appreciate is disrespecting your colleagues and disrespecting guests who are here, who were here to talk about an incredibly important issue which is mental health.”
“What has just occurred these last 10-15 minutes is unacceptable,” she said. “So we are either going to continue the briefing or we can just end the briefing right here.”
After someone in the audience answered that they wanted the briefing to continue, the press secretary continued with her remarks.
Complete chaos in the briefing room today. https://t.co/2W4trGj4eJ pic.twitter.com/vHmwvHYnTj
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) March 20, 2023