Monday’s White House press briefing was unlike any other so far as Today News Africa’s Simon Ateba seized the spotlight and, seconds after ever-inept Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stepped to the podium, began berating Jean-Pierre for allegedly not having called on him in seven months.
When he wouldn’t quiet down and let Jean-Pierre introduce the cast of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso (who were there to promote mental health), other reporters got involved and it descended into a rather tense scene that would soon be repeated moments later.
One could argue the move harkened back to the days of liberal activists masquerading as journalists with Jim Acosta, Brian Karem, and April Ryan pitching daily hissy fits that left them financially enriched and subjects of puffball profiles. Of course, their juvenile outbursts were never met with apologies from the Associated Press or officers in the White House Correspondents Association.
Once Ateba started shouting, Jean-Pierre clapped back: “No, no, no, no, no. No. Nope. That’s not — we’re not doing this. We’re not doing this. We’re not doing this. We’re not doing this.”
Ateba replied that she had been “dismissive against me” and “against some people in this Briefing Room," adding, “[T]his is the U.S. This not China. This not Russia. This not Russia.”
One reporter interjected to ask Ateba to “stop” while Karem had the irony to interject and asked him to “let her start.”
After Ateba shouted that Jean-Pierre was “making a mockery of the First Amendment,” more reporters started indiscernible shouting, but Karem could be heard demanding he “respect her” while NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell (vice president of the WHCA) repeatedly called for, “decorum, please.”
Ateba kept going, saying “[i]t’s been seven months you have not called on me. I’m saying that’s not right. That’s not right.”
Jean-Pierre turned to make a joke to the Ted Lasso cast that they had quite the “untimed welcome,” Ateba kept shouting: “I see you’re trying to censor me and some people, but that’s not right.”
She asked if the room was “ready to behave,” but Ateba kept screaming, so NPR’s Tamara Keith (president of the WHCA) shouted, “Simon” while O’Donnell again asked for “decorum” and said she was “sorry to our guests.”
Only then did the briefing continue with Jean-Pierre letting star Jason Sudeikis say a few words about the importance of mental health and seeking help if in distress.
Ateba resumed his haranguing once the cast left: “[Y]ou can’t keep discriminating against some people in the Briefing Room because you don’t like them, you don’t like the questions.”
Ateba kept insisting Jean-Pierre was “discriminating against me”, which left more reporters at their wit's end.
It grew even tenser with one reporter appearing to scream “decorum” at the top of her lungs and along with some laugh-out-loud lines from tough guy Karem about how this “isn’t just about you” and to “mind your manners,” the usually even-keeled Jeff Mason of Reuters blasted Ateba (click “expand”):
ATEBA: It’s been seven months.
JEFF MASON: Simon, Simon, the point is —
KAREM: Simon, and the rest of us are here too, pal.
ATEBA: It has been seven months. You guys have not done anything for me.
MASON: — come on, let her talk. If you have grievances, you should bring them to her later.
ATEBA: I have done that. I have done that.
MASON: Right now, this is for the entire press corps.
ATEBA: All my emails have been ignored.
MASON: And the press corps is tired of dealing with this.
KAREM: It isn’t just about you, Simon.
ATEBA [TO MASON]: I have done that. All this time, you get questions all the time and you don’t have to sit here for eight months —
MASON: The thing is —
ATEBA [TO MASON]: — and be discriminated against —
MASON: Eight —
ATEBA [TO MASON]: — all this time that you’re in the front row.
MASON: — if you have legitimate questions, you can ask the press secretary at another time.
ATEBA: You have people in the back who don’t get any questions.
KAREM: Don’t make assumptions about what the rest of us do. Mind your manners when you’re in here. If you have a problem, you bring it up afterwards. But you are impinging on everybody in here who’s only trying to do their jobs. Sorry.
ATEBA: Okay, thank you. I’m saying that you shouldn’t discriminate against some people because you don’t agree with their question or you’re offended by them.
The New York Times’s Katie Rogers also joined: “You made your point. You made your point. We all heard it.”
Ateba briefly relented to have Jean-Pierre offer a dressing down, reminding them that the “historic” Brady Briefing Room “should have decorum...where folks should respect their colleagues and respect...guests” even though there will “be give and take.”
“[W]hat I will not appreciate is disrespecting your colleagues and disrespecting guests who are here to talk...about an incredibly important issue, which is mental health. And what is just occurred...is unacceptable,” she added, leaving to more claims of “discrimination” from Ateba.
Given Ateba’s persistence, Jean-Pierre threatened to end the briefing before moving on to a frequent crutch of hers in John Kirby.
Later at the onset of Jean-Pierre’s Q&A, the Associated Press’s Zeke Miller led off with a nauseating apology that encapsulates the narcissism of the liberal media:
I just want to express our apologies to the press corps, to the folks watching at home for the display you saw earlier. Our responsibility is to them. We’re here to ask questions on their behalf, to hold their government accountable because they can’t all be here. And — this — this isn't about us.
Naturally, Jean-Pierre thanked Miller: “I appreciate that. I think the American people appreciate that because that is an important message to send to all of them who are watching.”
To see the relevant transcript from March 20’s briefing, click here.