An interruption by a reporter for an African publication drew a call for respect from Defense Department spokesman John Kirby. Kirby is one of several administration officials who have begun to appear at press briefings with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
His new collateral has earned Kirby a longer title: White House Coordinator for Strategic Communications.
Today News Africa Chief White House Correspondent Simon Ateba repeatedly tried to ask a question after Kirby had already called on another reporter.
” I’ve been trying to ask you this question,” Ateba repeated a number of times.
“Simon,” began Kirby before Ateba interjected again.
“If you’d allow me to ask you the question,” he said.
“Sir, I’m going to — I’m going to call on this man,” Kirby explained, adding, “Sir, listen now, I’ve been polite to you, but I expect a little bit of respect in return.”
“I respect you,” Ateba responded.
The administration spokesman reminded the foreign reporter he was in the White House press briefing room.
“I know,” interrupted the African reporter, “I respect you.”
“[A]nd you need to be more respectful,” continued Kirby.
Ateba noted he had repeatedly raised his hand before Kirby repeated 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 Ms. 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 a Friday Twitter post.
Friday was not the first instance of Ateba butting heads with White House offiicals during press briefings.
He reportedly acted in a similar manner during former press secretary Jan Psaki’s final White House briefing, prompting Psaki to ask him to be more respectful.
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, “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.”
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