White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre scolded a reporter and threatened to cut short her briefing on Monday after a testy exchange, during which he accused her of “discrimination.”
The exchange began following an outburst by Today News Africa correspondent Simon Ateba following a previous briefing by National Security Council spokesman John Kirby provided an update on the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organization whose leader was reportedly marching on Moscow before the situation was diffused.
Before she took any questions, Jean-Pierre discussed an earlier topic – the online harassment experienced by Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui after she questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi about India’s human rights record during his White House visit last week.
“As Jean-Pierre condemned the harassment while affirming the Biden administration’s commitment to the freedom of the press, Ateba was heard speaking over Jean-Pierre, claiming she has ‘discriminated against me for the past nine months,’” Mediaite reported. “This prompted another reporter to demand that Ateba explain ‘how is she discriminating against you?’”
Jean-Pierre tried to move on, but the arguing between reporters continued, with her threatening to end the briefing prematurely.
Ateba and the press secretary have had several tense exchanges over the past several months. In January, for instance, when she was being grilled on President Joe Biden’s classified documents scandal, her refusal to answer questions on the issue did not sit well with many in the media. In one exchange, Ateba grew frustrated with Jean-Pierre and called out her ability to perform the job of White House press secretary, telling her she was not fit for the job.
In March, he announced plans to take legal action against Jean-Pierre over claims that she discriminated against him during press conferences. Also, he sought to take action against the White House Correspondents Association for allegedly banning him “since they made false claims against me and my company and did not abide by their own membership guidelines.”
“I will fight like hell because as they sit in the briefing room collecting salaries, they don’t know there are people like me who build companies from scratch. Pray for me,” he wrote.
“I have also decided to take legal action against President Biden’s Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre for discrimination against me in the White House. My lawyer will be the one to also talk about this case here or when we appear on television to discuss the case,” Ateba noted in another tweet on Friday.
His application to join the association was rejected because “the committee noted repeated instances where your behavior violated the expectations for membership outlined in our bylaws,” Ateba said WHCA Executive Director Steven Thomma wrote to him in an email.
“Today is a dark day for freedom of the press in the United States of America. The forces of evil who felt belittled have removed me from the White House Correspondents Association. The removal had the approval of one journalist called @tamarakeithNPR who is WHCA President and works for NPR funded by donors and taxpayers,” Ateba noted in a lengthy tweet. “They claimed that I do not have money and cannot be a member of WHCA. They also lied in their letter and did not follow their own membership guidelines. May God forgive them.”