White House Press Conference Flies Off the Rails

From The Poynter Report with Tom Jones:

We’re used to seeing some contention in the White House press conferences. Contentious reporters asking pointed questions. Exasperated press secretaries rolling eyes. Awkward and angry exchanges between both.

It’s practically a White House press conference tradition.

But Monday’s press conference turned chaotic, heated and impassioned, with one reporter lashing out at press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, journalists scolding that reporter, Jean-Pierre threatening to shut the whole thing down, and another reporter apologizing to the American people for all that happened.

Whew, did you catch all that?

Oh, and throw in a little Ted Lasso, too.

That’s how it all started. The cast of the hit Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso,” including Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham, was at the White House to meet with President Joe Biden for a summit on mental health. So they joined Jean-Pierre at the podium on Monday.

However, Simon Ateba of Today News Africa drove the presser off the rails when he complained (again) about not being called upon in press conferences. Jean-Pierre snapped, “No, no, we’re not doing this. We’re not doing this, we’re not doing this, we’re not doing this!”

But apparently they were doing this.

Ateba complained that “this is not China … this is not Russia” and that he hadn’t been called upon in seven months. Ateba has a history of run-ins in the press conference. The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona wrote that Ateba is a “notorious gadfly who claims he’s been removed from the White House Correspondents’ Association.”

Later, after the “Ted Lasso” cast had left, Ateba went back into a rant about not being called upon to ask a question. That’s when other reporters began to object to Ateba’s diatribe, including Reuters reporter Jeff Mason and Salon columnist Brian Karem — both of whom started lecturing Ateba.

Ateba told Mason, “You’re in the front row, and you’ve been comfy, and you get questions all the time. There are people in the back who don’t get any questions.”

That’s when Karem said, “Don’t make assumptions about what the rest of us do. Mind your manners when you’re in here, and if you have a problem, you bring it up afterwards. But you are impinging on everybody in here who are only trying to do their jobs.”

Jean-Pierre then called Ateba’s outburst “unacceptable,” especially in front of the guests from “Ted Lasso.”

She went on to say, “As you all know, this is the White House press briefing room, a historic room, a room that should have decorum, a room where folks should respect their colleagues, and respect the guests who are here. I understand there’s going to be a give-and-take. That’s the way the press briefing has gone for decades before me. And I will always respect that, but what I will not appreciate is disrespecting colleagues and disrespecting guests who were here to talk about an incredibly important issue, which is mental health.”

Later, another journalist apologized for the day’s events.


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