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Simon Ateba, the Reporter who Turns the Spotlight on Himself at the White House


[Simon Ateba once again made a bold move recently. As Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, addressed journalists during her daily briefing, Ateba spoke out of turn, insisting that he was a victim of “discrimination” because he had not been called on to ask a question. Jean-Pierre weariedly frowned and warned that the press briefing would end if Ateba continued his behavior, as his fellow reporters argued with him, calling him rude.

Ateba has interrupted Jean-Pierre and her predecessor, Jen Psaki, on multiple occasions over the past year, demanding to be called on. In March, he even interrupted a briefing room photo op with the cast of “Ted Lasso” to insist that Jean-Pierre answer his question. Other journalists shouted at him to let it go and maintain decorum.

His repeated demands for recognition have frustrated press officials and the White House Correspondents’ Association, the organization representing reporters. However, Ateba’s behavior has gained him popularity on Twitter, YouTube, and right-wing media outlets like Fox News, the Daily Caller, and Breitbart. These outlets portrayed him as a victim of censorship by the Biden White House and the “liberal” mainstream media. Tucker Carlson, before being fired by Fox, described Ateba as “the one guy in the room who asked real questions.”

However, it is unclear what questions Ateba has been trying to ask, as his interruptions usually begin and end with a protest about not being allowed to ask his question. When asked about the information the White House has denied him, Ateba declined to provide any details and refused to be interviewed or discuss his publication, Today News Africa. He accused the Left of racism and discrimination and criticized articles that failed to address his underlying story of discrimination against him.

After his exchange with Jean-Pierre was edited out of the official video of the briefing, Ateba expressed his outrage on Twitter, accusing the White House of fraud. His tweets attracted attention as he accused the press secretary of violating the First Amendment that many have fought and died to protect.

Ateba, originally from Cameroon, has shared colorful stories about his experiences as a journalist. According to news reports, he was arrested in Cameroon in 2015 while investigating living conditions for Nigerian refugees in northern Cameroon. He was accused of spying for the Boko Haram insurgency group and held for four days before being released. Other parts of his stories have not been independently verified.

The White House press officials declined to comment on Ateba. However, in May, the administration proposed rules about “professional” conduct by journalists with White House credentials, including a provision about not impeding events or briefings on campus. While Ateba is not mentioned by name, this proposal could give the administration a tool to discipline him without facing legal consequences.

During one of Ateba’s outbursts this year, journalist Brian Karem, who previously faced a ban from the White House, challenged him. Karem commented that Ateba seemed more interested in drawing attention to himself than asking a question and accused him of wasting everyone’s time.

Karem noted that many reporters do not get called on during briefings but can seek responses from White House staff in other settings. Ateba has asked questions and received responses from Biden officials in other circumstances, such as untelevised briefings and events involving the National Security Council adviser and First Lady Jill Biden’s trip to Africa.

The White House Correspondents’ Association reprimanded Ateba last year but took no further action. However, they did not renew his membership in January, citing a lack of evidence that he is employed by a news outlet covering the White House. Ateba has publicly disputed this decision and even shared contact information of the association’s president on Twitter but later deleted those tweets.


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