White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s final briefing with reporters went off the rails Friday after one reporter repeatedly shouted a question about fair access in the room.
As Psaki began to take questions — after fighting back tears as she thanked members of the administration and the press corps — Simon Ateba, the chief White House correspondent for Today News Africa, was heard yelling from the back of the press briefing room.
“Why don’t you take questions from across the room?” Ateba asked as Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller attempted to get things started with a query about the ongoing baby formula shortage.
“Why don’t you take questions from across the room? Because that’s not what you’ve done for the past 15 months,” Ateba shouted again.
Psaki was not initially fazed by Ateba’s lack of decorum. However, the reporter shouted over his colleagues again minutes later.
“Jen, can I ask you a question from the back?” he was heard saying. “Jen, can I ask you a question from the back?”
As Ateba continued to speak over reporters in the front row who attempted to question Psaki, NPR’s Tamara Keith turned around and urged him to desist.
“Simon, please, stop,” she said.
Ateba did not oblige and continued to shout over other reporters in the room, until Psaki finally turned to him to say, “Simon, if you can respect your colleagues and other media and reporters in here, that would be greatly appreciated.”
Psaki has been criticized in the past for strictly sticking to answering questions from reporters in the first few rows of the briefing room, often missing out on questions from outlets such as The Post, the Washington Examiner, Al Jazeera and other foreign media.
After the raucous protest, Peter Alexander of NBC News said he would voluntarily limit himself to two questions to allow more colleagues to have a turn. Front-row journalists routinely help themselves to a half-dozen queries, outraging fellow reporters who can go weeks or months without being called on.
Historically, White House reporters have adhered to an informal norm of limiting exchanges to two questions.
Since covering the Biden administration, Ateba has frequently sparred with Psaki — going as far to accuse her of lying about coronavirus-related travel restrictions in December.
“You are saying something that is false,” Ateba shouted at Psaki, speaking once again over his colleagues.
“I just answered — Simon, I answered a question on this,” Psaki said as he continued to attempt to get his question in.“Let’s let [Voice of America reporter] Patsy [Widakuswara] ask a question,” added Psaki, who later scolded Ateba when he persisted.
“It’s not effective to scream over your colleagues in here,” the press secretary said. “Let’s — let’s — let Patsy ask the question.”
The same month, Ateba accused the restrictions of being “racist” as they targeted southern African countries.
This is an excerpt from New York Post.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.