Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s final briefing Friday went off the rails as a frustrated reporter with a foreign newspaper slammed her over her alleged refusal to take questions from the non-establishment reporters sitting in the back.
A video clip from the briefing shows an establishment reporter, Zeke Miller of the Associated Press, trying to ask Psaki a question about the current baby formula shortage when suddenly a reporter starts shouting a question from the back.
“Jen, can I ask you a question from the back?” the reporter, later identified as Simon Ateba of Today News Africa, asks, prompting Psaki’s aide to chide him.
“Simon, please stop,” the aide says.
All humans are equal, all humans deserve to be treated with love and care, all humans deserve to be given opportunities. Elevating some over others is awful. No matter who the person is, educated, illiterate, black, white or brown, they should all be given opportunities.
— Simon Ateba (@simonateba) May 13, 2022
Instead of quieting down, Ateba begins to argue.
“I understand, but for 15 months you have not …,” he can be heard saying before talked over by the aide.
“Simon, please show some respect to everyone else in the room. Thank you,” the aide says.
Ateba can then be heard finishing his thought: “And I’m saying that for the sake of equity, we should have questions. That’s all I’m saying.”
He then continues speaking as Miller, who this whole time has been trying to ask about the baby formula shortage, tries once more to present a question.
Psaki eventually intervenes by personally chiding Ateba herself.
“Simon, if you could respect your colleagues and media and reporters in here, that would be greatly appreciated,” she says.
Democrat Biden’s White House Press Secretary during a White House Briefing “scolded”(-Mediaite) at, while Refusing to take a question from a Black Correspondent. #mapoli #boston #blm #mepolitics
” will you take a question from the back of the room?”–Simon Ateba,News Africa pic.twitter.com/kXCbwF3pOM
— mainenewshound (@mainenewshound) May 13, 2022
But Ateba isn’t impressed.
“No, the biggest — the biggest disrespect is not to have a question for 15 months. That’s what I’m asking you. If you can spread the questions, then all of us at the back will be able to have the questions,” he argues.
The aide then intervenes again, repeating, “Not today. Not today.”
Ateba eventually quiets down and the briefing continues as normal, with establishment reporters being prioritized and non-establishment reporters like Ateba, a minority concerned about “equity,” being completely sidelined.
The irony is rich, critics say, because this administration has a habit of lecturing Americans about the need for so-called “equity.”
— Persistence Over Resistance (@POR2448) May 14, 2022
In fairness to the White House, it appears Ateba used to be called upon during White House briefings but was sidelined after he appeared on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” last December to slam the administration for imposing a travel ban on South Africa.
“I think that the travel ban was based on a lie. The president on Nov. 26th banned eight African countries. Only two of those countries had any case of omicron variant. Six of the other countries had zero case of the variant,” he told fill-in host Jesse Watters at the time.
Watters pushed back by noting the Biden administration had cited the guidance of their “scientists” and “experts” to justify the ban.
Again, Ateba wasn’t impressed.
“I believe that any scientist who says you should ban countries that have zero variant and allow countries that have variants to come to the U.S., I believe it’s bad advice, and I think that it seems discriminatory and it almost seems a bit racist,” he said.
“Can you imagine if the former president, Donald Trump, and I’m not his fan, but can you imagine if he had banned eight African countries, and six of those countries have zero case of the variant? There would have been an uprising.”
During another appearance on the show two weeks later, he claimed Psaki had stopped calling on him because of his initial appearance on the program.
“Since I came on your show about two weeks ago, I have not been called on at the White House to ask any question. I’ve raised my hand many times, and I’m not being called on,” he told host Tucker Carlson.
“And coming on your show doesn’t make me left-wing, right-wing or any wing. It doesn’t even make me liberal or conservative or pro- or anti-government. So it’s been really hard since I came on this show,” he explained.
According to the New York Post, Ateba has a history of being combative.
“Since covering the Biden administration, Ateba has frequently sparred with Psaki — going as far to accuse her of lying about coronavirus-related travel restrictions in December. … The same month, Ateba accused the restrictions of being ‘racist’ as they targeted southern African countries. The African journalist also has a history of interrupting briefing guests, including Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci,” the Post noted.
The good news is that, following his latest outburst, “Peter Alexander of NBC News said he would voluntarily limit himself to two questions to allow more colleagues to have a turn,” according to the Post.
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