Today News Africa reporter calls White House press room a ‘disgrace’ and accuses the Biden communications team of racism when they repeatedly ignored his questions – after he furiously derailed Jason Sudeikis’s appearance
- Simon Ateba, a White House correspondent for Today News Africa, on Monday interrupted press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, demanding to ask a question
- Ateba, from Cameroon, has repeatedly accused Jean-Pierre of refusing to accept questions from smaller media outlets, like his
- His interruption came as the cast of Ted Lasso was at the podium, with star Jason Sudeikis appearing to discuss mental health
A Cameroonian journalist has accused the White House of racism, accusing press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre of ignoring him and explaining why he berated her on Monday in front of the cast of Ted Lasso.
Simon Ateba, a correspondent for Washington DC-based Today News Africa, said he had been waiting for seven months to ask a question.
On Monday, during a special visit to the press room by the cast of Ted Lasso, Ateba demanded once again that he be allowed to ask a question.
He told Karine Jean-Pierre today: ‘You’re making a mockery of the First Amendment. It’s been seven months and you have not called on me. You’ve been discriminating against me and discrimination against some people in the briefing.’
And speaking to Tucker Carlson, Ateba said: ‘I’m black, I’m African, I don’t have money, they look down on me. I don’t have the opportunities they have. And they don’t treat me the same way.’
Carson called Monday’s encounter ‘one of the most awful things I’ve ever seen’ and said the rest of the White House press pack should be ‘ashamed’ of shouting him down.
Simon Ateba on Monday night told Tucker Carlson he had been silenced and discriminated against
Jason Sudeikis appeared to discuss mental health with the co-stars from the award-winning show when Today News Africa correspondent Simon Ateba (middle) started berating President Biden’s press secretary
The White House press briefing with the Ted Lasso cast descended into chaos on Monday when a reporter berated Karine Jean-Pierre for not taking questions from him
‘You know, the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech, the press and assembly, and the right to petition your government to seek redress,’ said Ateba.
‘The First Amendment says I have the right to ask questions, to do my job – and the press secretary doesn’t need to like me, date me, marry me, have two black children with me.
‘She doesn’t need to do all of that. She doesn’t even need to like my accent, doesn’t even need to like what I look like, come from.’
Ateba’s own president, Paul Biya, 90, has been in power since 1982 – making him the one of the longest-serving presidents in the world.
The country’s media freedom is ranked zero out of four, according to Freedom House’s latest report. The U.S. scored three out of four.
Ateba accused Jean-Pierre and the White House aides of discriminating against him. He added: ‘They look down on me. They don’t respect the First Amendment.’
Ateba said that he had tried to ask a question, but had never been permitted
Ateba told Carlson that, for seven months, he had ‘done all of the right things’ to request an answer to his questions.
‘I’ve not been called on. I’ve gone to her office to seek a meeting. She said she would meet with me next year. 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 when they 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!
‘It’s a shame what happened today.’
Ateba was told to be quiet by his fellow reporters, which Carlson said was outrageous. Carlson demanded to know why ‘the other shills in the room don’t take the journalist’s side’ – singling out the reporters for Reuters, CNN and Associated Press for telling Ateba to stop his interruption.
Ateba said he was silenced, but CNN’s white-skinned White House correspondent was supported by his colleagues when he challenged Donald Trump’s press secretaries.
‘It’s a shame what happened to me today. It’s a total disgrace,’ said Ateba.
‘It’s happening in the Biden White House.
‘And you know, when it happens to Jim Acosta of CNN, because they respect him. He’s white. He works for CNN. I’m black. I’m African. I don’t have money. They look down on me. I don’t have the opportunities that they have and they don’t treat me the same way – I need to do my job.
He said the White House was ‘stonewalling me’.
Jason Sudeikis, who plays Coach Lasso, managed to get in a statement about mental health
Ateba earlier accused the Biden administration of being a dictatorship, silencing dissent.
‘This is not China, this is not Russia,’ he added as reporters then interjected and told him they were fed up with his conduct.
Jean-Pierre has frequently admonished Ateba in the past, but this time journalists in the room demanded he quiet himself so that the day’s event – the only on-record interaction with senior White House officials – could begin.
‘You are impinging on everybody in here who’s only trying to do their job,’ reporter Brian Karem said.
Another correspondent yelled: ‘The rest of us are here too, pal’.
Ateba’s outburst came before Jean-Pierre or the celebrities she arrayed behind her had a chance to speak.
Sudeikis later told DailyMail.com, outside the West Wing, he sympathized with all concerned.
‘Tough gig on both sides. I get it. High stakes,’ he said.
Hannah Waddingham told DailyMail.com that Biden did not mention the lively exchange when the cast met with him about mental health issues.
He said they spoke about ‘health and well being and well-being and how we have to pull everything with us to make a change.’
He said the president brought up his late son Beau Biden and ‘was very vocal about it, and that encourages you to be vocal.’
Jean-Pierre tried to talk over Ateba as he was shouting.
‘No. No. No. No. No. We’re not doing this,’ Jean-Pierre said. ‘We’re not doing this.’
Turning to Sudeikis, she joked: ‘Welcome to the press briefing room.’
‘Are we ready? Are we going to behave,’ Jean-Pierre said, after allowing for a long pause.
After Ateba interrupted again, individual reporters urged him to stop.
‘Decorum, please,’ said NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, a longtime reporter and members of the White House Correspondents’ Association.
Ateba has received multiple complaints and the White House Correspondents Association have warned him about his behavior.
The group regularly provides updates on ‘decorum’ in its outreach to members.
The White House controls press credentials for the buildings.
Sudeikis is flanked by fellow Ted Lasso cast members Brett Goldstein and Hannah Waddingham as he embraces Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
Looking on awkwardly for the entire exchange were Sudeikis – who has played Biden on Saturday Night Live – and fellow cast members Hannah Waddingham, Brett Goldstein, Brendan Hunt and Toheeb Jimoh.
Only after the tense confrontation was Sudeikis able to speak.
He and the cast of ‘Ted Lasso’ were spotted going into the White House residence before the event. He made a brief pitch about mental health.
‘No matter who you are … we all know someone … that’s struggled that’s felt isolated that’s felt anxious that’s felt alone,’ he said.
Sudeikis, who plays Coach Ted Lasso, delivered a statement about mental health after the first interruption.
‘The big theme of the show is to check in with your neighbor, your coworker, your friends, your family, and ask how they are doing, and listen, sincerely,’ Sudeikis said.
‘You all ask questions for a living, but you all listen for a living. So who am I preaching to? The choir, that is.’
He added: ‘And while it is easier said that done, we also have to know that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help ourselves.’
His caring words appeared directly counter the actions of his own legal team who served his ex, Olivia Wilde, with papers in April 2022 while presenting live on stage at the 2022 CinemaCon.
The 38-year-old actress was in the middle of a presentation for 4,100 film industry executives about last year’s thriller Don’t Worry Darling when she received the legal documents.
Wilde called the incident ‘an attack on her workplace’, but said she was not surprised at it happening because there was a ‘reason’ she ended her relationship with Sudeikis.
In court documents obtained by DailyMail.com, she argued that the decision to serve her onstage in front of an audience was a clear bid to ‘threaten’ and ’embarrass’ her.
Sudeikis has since claimed he did not know Wilde would be served the papers in such a public and humiliating way.
Wilde stated that: ‘Jason’s actions were clearly intended to threaten me and catch me off guard. He could have served me discreetly, but instead he chose to serve me in the most aggressive manner possible.
‘The fact that Jason would embarrass me professionally and put our personal conflict on public display in this manner is extremely contrary to our children’s best interests.’
Sudeikis later responded, apologizing by saying that he was ‘very, very sorry’ and that he ‘deeply regretted’ the manner in which she was served.
Sudeikis’s words of encouragement seemed at odds with the manner in which his ex Olivia Wilde was served legal documents during a live presentation at the April 2022 CinemaCon
‘Check in with your neighbor, your coworker, your friends, your family and ask how they’re doing. And listen sincerely’, Sudeikis told the briefing room
Jean-Pierre admonished Ateba: ‘We’re not doing this. We’re not doing this’
The real life chaos came before actor James Lance, who plays journalist Trent Crimm on the ‘Ted Lasso’ show, asked the one and only question of Sudeikis
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby then came to the podium to discuss the meeting between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin, and Ateba tried to step in again.
Later in the briefing, an Associated Press White House Correspondent apologized on behalf of the press, telling Jean-Pierre: ‘This isn’t about us’.
Ateba spoke out loud again, but not yelling this time.
‘The American people wants you to be fair to everybody,’ he said.
Jean-Pierre later told Ateba: ‘What 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.
‘What has just occurred this last 10 or 15 minutes is unacceptable.’
It was just the latest in a series of confrontations for Ateba inside the briefing room.
During the final briefing from Jean-Pierre predecessor, Jen Psaki, he shouted out: ‘Will you take a question from the back of the room?’
‘Simon, please stop,’ said ABC’s Mary Bruce.
Ateba replied: ‘If you can spread the questions from across the room and all of us at the back of the room.’
WHCA President Tamara Keith, of National Public Radio, wrote to fellow reporters on Monday about the ‘extreme breakdown of decorum.’
‘What happened today created a hostile work environment for everyone in that room,’ she wrote.
She called on colleagues to behave in a ‘professional manner’ and pointed to a fact sheet pointing out that the White House Press Office and the Secret Service control access to the building and the briefing room.
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