The clash between the White House and a black journalist covering Washington for Today News Africa escalated Friday.
Journalist Simon Ateba revealed he received a “Dear John” letter from the White House Correspondents’ Association, saying in effect, “it’s not us, it’s you.”
White House Correspondents’ Association Executive Director Steven Thomma’s correspondence claimed the African reporter was not a member of any publication’s editorial staff. Thomma further claimed Ateba failed to provide follow-up information such as a letter from his employer confirming his paid employment and specific job duties.
“Additionally, the committee noted repeated instances where your behavior violated the expectations for membership outlined in our bylaws, which have been detailed to you previously,” Thomma wrote Ateba.
The pugnacious reporter has previously tangled with White House communications members, such as John Kirby, Jen Psaki and Karine Jean-Pierre.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby began appearing with Jean-Pierre after stumbling early in her new role. Ateba asked Kirby what his role at the press conference was compared to Jean-Pierre’s.
“Sometimes you act like a second press secretary,” remarked Ateba in a September 2022 briefing. “Almost everywhere I go, I have Black people telling me that the the reason you’re at the White House is to undermine the first female Black press secretary?”
Kirby had one month earlier remonstrated with Ateba after the reporter repeatedly tried to ask a question but was not called upon.
Ateba noted he repeatedly raised his hand before Kirby again stated he was going to call on the other reporter.
After the press briefing, Ateba suggested the Biden administration was being racist by inserting people like Kirby into briefings instead of better supporting Jean-Pierre.
“Black people around the country are getting fed up as the Biden administration undermines the first Black Press Secretary by bringing in John Kirby to do so-called ‘strategic communication’ instead of rallying around the press secretary, many people have told me,” Ateba commented in Twitter post that has since been removed.
The African journalist was warned not to continue behaving like that shortly after Psaki’s final press conference.
CBS News Radio White House correspondent Steven Portnoy told Ateba in a letter he would be expelled if he acted like that again, according to a Daily Caller report. Ateba acknowledged he received the warning, saying he did so with a “heavy heart” because Psaki ignored him in the briefing room that day.
“The true story is that of discrimination, that of looking down on some people, ignoring them, behaving as if they don’t have anything to say even when Africa is being discussed in the room,” Ateba remarked. He continued: “The true story is about perpetuating inequality, elevating some people over others, preaching equity loudly to the country but practicing something different in the briefing room.”
Ateba Saturday announced plans to seek legal relief from ejection by the White House Correspondents’ Association.
“I have decided to take legal action against the White House Correspondents Association @whca since they made false claims against me and my company and did not abide by their own membership guidelines,” he remarked. “From now on, I will let my lawyer talk about the case but 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.”
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