The disruptive founder of an African news site has accused White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre of ‘discrimination’ after repeatedly clashing with her in the briefing room.
Simon Ateba, who runs the website Today News Africa, leveled the claim after a visibly frustrated Jean-Pierre walked out of Thursday’s daily briefing as he talked over her with questions about next week’s US-Africa summit.
Ateba has repeatedly sparred with Jean-Pierre and her predecessor Jen Psaki, accusing them of ignoring reporters in the ‘back of the room’ — a motley crew representing smaller news outlets without assigned seats at briefings.
With President Joe Biden‘s three-day summit with 49 African leaders upcoming, Ateba believes he is long overdue to be called on for a question, as the representative of an African news site.
However, Jean-Pierre has been previously warned about his ‘disruptive’ behavior and was threatened with expulsion from the White House Correspondents Association after twice interrupting Psaki’s last press secretary briefing in May. He has been accused of trying to get a rise out of White House Press Secretaries purely for shock value.
Ateba, who was born in Cameroon and long worked for press outlets in Nigeria, runs the news site Today News Africa and serves as White House Correspondent
A visibly frustrated Jean-Pierre walked out of Thursday’s daily briefing as Ateba talked over her with questions about next week’s US-Africa summit
‘People like me, it’s been a disaster, a catastrophe, covering the Biden White House,’ Ateba told Fox News in an interview on Friday. ‘Right now I’m the voice of Africa in the US. But I can confirm that the level of discrimination against me and against African journalists in the White House is astounding, disgraceful.’
‘It’s shocking, because she’s black, she’s an immigrant,’ he said of Jean-Pierre, who was born in France and moved to the US as a young child. ‘I’m black. I’m also an immigrant,’ noted Ateba.
Ateba said he believes he faces discrimination due to his notable accent, though he is not the only member of the White House press corps with a foreign accent.
‘The first thing, I sound different. I wasn’t born here. I was born in Cameroon,’ he said. ‘I don’t have the American accent. I’ve tried. I’ve failed.’
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com late on Friday.
It is far from the first time Ateba has spoken out about the lack of opportunities to ask questions for himself and fellow journalists in the ‘back of the room’.
The briefing room seating chart is carefully controlled by the White House Correspondents Association, with the big news networks in the front and smaller outlets in the back.
The least prestigious outlets have no assigned seats at all — and their representatives are derisively referred to by the favored crowd as ‘aisle people’.
Ateba said he believes he faces discrimination due to his notable accent, though he is not the only member of the White House press corps with a foreign accent
While television journalists in the front rows can expect to ask questions every day, those sitting further back – or coming armed with awkward questions – often feel hard done by when their raised hands are ignored.
Ateba is known as one of the loudest members of the briefing room’s awkward squad.
Last month, he clashed with Jean-Pierre after she brushed off another reporter’s question about the origins of COVID during Dr. Anthony Fauci’s final briefing.
‘She has a valid question about the origin of COVID,’ shouted Ateba. ‘Dr. Fauci is the best person to answer!’
In May, at Psaki’s final briefing, he repeatedly shouted ‘will you take a question from the back of the room?’ interrupting his press colleagues as well as the press secretary.
Ateba first interrupted Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller, and then began shouting over ABC News reporter Mary Bruce as she tried to ask a question.
At a briefing in March, Ateba took the lead in asking about the Biden administration’s response to Will Smith’s infamous slap of Chris Rock at the Oscars
Bruce, her frustration evident, responded ‘Simon, please stop,’ but Ateba was undeterred and repeated his demands.
‘If you can spread the questions from across the room and all of us at the back of the room,’ shouted Ateba.
Psaki at this point intervened and said: ‘Simon, if you could respect your colleagues and other media reporters in here, that would be greatly appreciated.’
Despite Ateba’s complaints, he has been called on by Psaki and other officials in the past.
In February, for instance, he asked Psaki about reports that she planned to take a job at MSNBC after leaving her White House post.
And at a briefing in March, Ateba took the lead in asking about the Biden administration’s response to Will Smith’s infamous slap of Chris Rock at the Oscars.
To that question, White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield responded that Biden had not watched the Oscars ceremony, and did not have an official comment on the matter.
Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group