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Black reporter says White House press room racist for refusing to call on him

By Sarah May on
 March 21, 2023

Cameroonian reporter Simon Ateba of Today News Africa has long voiced frustration with the treatment he receives at the hands of the Biden administration, and things came to an explosive head Monday during a heated exchange with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, whom he accused of racial bias, as the Daily Mail reports.

The explosive confrontation occurred in the White House briefing room during a visit from the cast of Apple TV series Ted Lasso.

Reporter confronts Jean-Pierre

Tensions rose rapidly when Ateba tried to ask Jean-Pierre a question and was rebuffed by the press secretary, something that has occurred on multiple occasions in the past.

“No, no, no, we're not doing this. We're not doing this,” Jean-Pierre said of Ateba's attempt at discourse, as Newsweek noted.

Jean-Pierre's failure to permit his query prompted Ateba to declare, “You are discriminating against some people in the briefing room, and I'm saying this is the U.S.A. This is not China. This is not Russia. What you are doing you are making a mockery of the First Amendment.”

Ateba continued, “It's been seven months, you've not called on me. I'm saying that's not right.”

Choosing sides

Amid Ateba's interaction with Jean-Pierre, Reuters reporter Jeff Mason upbraided his press colleague in front of the rest of the media pool, as Mediaite noted, after another reporter interjected, “The rest of us are here too, pal.”

Mason then added, “If you have grievances, you should bring them to her later.”

That suggestion caused Ateba to emphatically state, “I have done that. All my emails have been ignored.”

Clearly irritated, Mason replied, “And the press corps is tired of dealing with this.”

Ateba holds firm

During an appearance on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight a few hours after the unpleasant White House encounter, Ateba explained his frustration and articulated what he believes is behind Jean-Pierre's hostility toward him.

“The First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, the press and assembly, and the right to petition your government to seek redress,” Ateba began. “And that First Amendment says that I have the right to ask a question to do my job and the press secretary doesn't need to like me.”

Ateba went on, “[S]he doesn't need to like me, date me, marry me...have two Black children with me. She doesn't need all that. She doesn't even need to like my accent, doesn't need to like what I look like [or] where I come from.”

Suggesting a particular bias on the part of Jean-Pierre, Ateba added, “I've sent questions about the Nigerian election, about, you know, the problems, challenges in Africa. And they've not called on me. Even as the vice president is going to Africa, even as the first lady, Jill Biden, went to Africa, even went to receive 50 African leaders for the U.S. African summit in Washington, D.C. The guy who covers the White House, the African guy who covered the White House, is looked down upon in the greatest country in the world, in the most advanced country, where freedom of speech is protected.”

Carlson, Miller lend support

During his on-air chat with Ateba on Monday night, Carlson expressed incredulity at the fact that other reporters in the briefing room did not leap to the defense of their colleague, as Mediaite further reported.

“Outrageous doesn't even describe what we just played for you,” Carlson began. “So here you have the White House press secretary whose job it is to answer questions from journalists on behalf of the entire American population hijacking the event to promote a TV show and then screaming at a guy who wants his questions answered.”

Carlson continued, “And then the other shills in the room don't take the side of their fellow journalist, but take the side of the lady at the front to whom they were actually beholden,” referencing by name Mason, CNN's Brian Karem, and Zeke Miller of the Associated Press, all of whom the host said “should be ashamed of themselves.”

Stephen Miller, a one time senior adviser to former President Donald Trump and founder of America First Legal sided with Ateba and Carlson, tweeting sarcastically, “Jean-Pierre can't take [Ateba's] questions because apparently she must get to the urgent matter of promoting the newest season of a streaming TV series.”