An unusually tense and awkward moment developed during a White House press briefing on Monday when a reporter loudly interrupted the flow of the proceedings to criticize White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. The reporter, Simon Ateba, loudly and repeatedly complained that he was being unfairly treated. His objections earned him angry disapproval from his colleagues and a very distinct disapproving scolding from Jean-Pierre.
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Monday’s press event was mostly a lighthearted affair, with cast members of the popular show Ted Lasso joining Jean-Pierre to discuss mental health. As the cast was being introduced by Jean-Pierre, Ateba, a correspondent from Cameroon who reports for Today News Africa, began shouting out complaints that he had not been called upon for “seven months.” Jean-Pierre was clearly exasperated, exclaiming “No, no, no, we’re not doing this” and asking “are we ready, are we going to behave?” in between Ateba’s disturbances.
After the Ted Lasso cast finished their appearance, Ateba again interrupted as Jean-Pierre began to introduce Department of Defense official John Kirby. As Ateba renewed his claims that he was being discriminated against by the White House, his fellow reporters became clearly upset and started chastising him.
“Simon, the rest of us are here too, pal…if you have grievances, you should bring them to her later,” responded one reporter in the White House Press Corps.
“Mind your manners when you’re in here, and if you have a problem, you bring it up afterwards,” another reporter said.“You’ve made your point, we all heard it,” exclaimed a third reporter in frustration as Ateba continued to complain.
Eventually Jean-Pierre addressed the interrupting reporter.
”As many of you know, “ she reminded the press corps, “this is the White House press briefing room, a historic room, a room that should have decorum.” Jean-Pierre pledged to respect the “give and take” of the press briefing, but added that “what I will not appreciate is disrespecting your colleagues and disrespecting guests who are here, who were here to talk about an important topic, which is mental health.”
Clearing having had enough, Jean-Pierre let loose her strongest“don’t make me turn this car around” tone, declared that “we’re either going to continue the briefing or we can just end the briefing right now.”
The Hill reports that Ateba has interrupted press events at the White House on multiple occasions.
He was chastised by Jean-Pierre for doing so during Dr. Anthony Fauci’s last official press briefing, and Jean-Pierre even end a separate question and answer period early when Ateba complained about other reporters being called upon instead of him. Prior to Jean-Pierre taking over as press secretary, Ateba similarly interrupted another reporter’s question to press secretary Jen Psaki. The White House Correspondents’ Association has warned him that he could face punitive action from the organization for his outbursts. Ateba discussed the incident on Fox New’s Tucker Carlson show, where Ateba has appeared previously. While egged on by Carlson, Ateba elaborated on his claim that Jean-Pierre, a daughter of working-class Haitian immigrants who is the first Black White House Press Secretary, discriminates against Ateba because “I’m Black, I’m African [and] I don’t have money.”
Ateba has now seen his name and outbursts appear in multiple news outlets and even launched a bit of a feud with the hosts of The View who criticized his behavior. As long as his outburst lead to attention and appearances on shows like Tucker Carlson, Ateba will likely continue to launch his complaints about discrimination for as long as he remains a White House reporter.