White House warns reporter he may lose press pass over continued interruptions
By The Citizen on July 12, 2023
The White House press office on Wednesday issued a formal warning to a journalist over his frequent interruptions at press briefings, cautioning that he may lose his pass to the complex if the outbursts continue.
Simon Ateba, a reporter for Today News Africa, posted the text and screenshots of the letter on his Twitter account. The two-page document is unsigned, but it lays out numerous instances of when Ateba impeded press briefings by shouting over colleagues or preventing press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre from answering questions.
“The White House recognizes that members of the press often raise their voices or shout questions at press briefings or events,” the letter states. “Ordinarily such shouting stops when a reporter is called on for a question, and the briefing or event is able to continue. Continued interruptions are different; they prevent journalists from asking questions or administration officials and guests from responding. The Press Secretary’s only option in response to such disruptions is to stop the briefing or event, which is to the detriment of all journalists.”
The letter cites guidance issued on May 5 as part of a process for journalists who cover the White House that outlined expectations for behavior while on the grounds, which includes respect for others in the building and not impeding events on campus.
“If you continue to impede briefings or events by shouting over your colleagues who have been called on for a question, even after you have been asked to stop by a White House employee, then your hard pass may be suspended or revoked, following notice and an opportunity to respond,” the letter states, giving Ateba seven days to file a response.
The document cites several instances of when Ateba interrupted press briefings by demanding to be called on, accusing Jean-Pierre of discriminating against him or otherwise complaining about proceedings in the briefing room.
Specifically, the document points to a June 26 briefing when Ateba accused Jean-Pierre of discriminating against him for months. The briefing was briefly derailed as Jean-Pierre and other reporters in the room urged Ateba to stop interrupting.
“You’re being incredibly rude,” Jean-Pierre said, while Ateba claimed she was “not giving me freedom of the press.”
The letter also cites incidents involving Ateba from May 13, March 20, and Dec. 8, 2022.
In the March 20 briefing, Ateba began shouting before Jean-Pierre could introduce the cast of “Ted Lasso,” who were in attendance to speak about mental health. Reporters in the room pushed back on Ateba at the time, and the White House Correspondents Association lamented the “breakdown of decorum.”
Jean-Pierre in December concluded the briefing abruptly after she called on a reporter from The Hill, only for Ateba to begin shouting out and asking why he was not being called on.
BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission.
Ateba has gained a significant following on social media from his appearances in the briefing room, and he previously appeared on former Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show to levy claims of discrimination against the White House.
Should Ateba lose his hard pass to the White House, he would still be able to enter the facility through a more involved procedure that requires members of the media to apply for access on a daily basis.
The Trump White House in 2019 revoked the hard pass of reporter Brian Karem after an altercation he had in the Rose Garden with guests for an event. But a judge ultimately restored Karem’s access, ruling that the White House did not provide clear guidance about what would warrant the revocation of a hard pass.