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KJP Ends Abruptly Ends Briefing With Kirby After Chaotic Response to Question

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


Following a question from Today News Africa White House correspondent Simon Ateba, the briefing with National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby descended into chaos, and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre intervened to quickly end it.

During the briefing, Kirby was asked about President Joe Biden hosting Angolan President João Lourenço at the White House earlier in the day. As the former Navy admiral talked about U.S. interests in Africa that Biden is attempting to advance at the meeting, Ateba attempted to ask a follow-up question, saying, “It’s so surprising you are receiving an African leader, and you don’t take a question from an African journalist.”

Afterward, the briefing devolved into a sea of crosstalk, leading Jean-Pierre to step in, dismissing Kirby.

“We can end this briefing if it’s not going to be respectful here,” the press secretary said, which led to more protesting from Ateba before she shut down the briefing altogether.

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Ateba filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Biden White House in August, alleging that administration officials are “leaving biased journalists in charge of who gets to ask the tough questions” during daily press briefings.

The suit was filed by the Center for American Liberty, a nonprofit organization that defends free speech, on his behalf after Ateba was barred from attending the daily White House press briefings, where he regularly scuffled verbally with press secretary Karine Jean Pierre, as NTD News reported at the time.

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“A free and robust press is vital to a healthy democracy,” the lawsuit says. “The Framers understood this to be an unassailable truth, enshrining protection of the free press in the First Amendment as an essential check on government power. This constitutional safeguard is at its zenith when the government itself is the subject of scrutiny. ”

The suit further details how, in 2021, the White House Press Office relaxed the criteria for journalists to acquire “hard passes,” granting them entry to daily press briefings and unrestricted access to White House press facilities. The move aimed to enhance accessibility for smaller media outlets and uphold the principles of a free press.

Ateba applied for and received the hard pass in February 2021.

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Ateba’s legal representatives explained that he consistently participated in White House briefings and posed inquiries. Even when he sent them in writing directly to the White House Press Office, White House officials consistently ignored or failed to respond to his questions.

“Regardless of what the questions are, the White House generally ignores them,” the lawsuit states. “This refusal to provide information to Mr. Ateba makes it increasingly difficult for Mr. Ateba to obtain the necessary information needed for the quality of coverage he seeks to provide his readers.”

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Ateba was granted the opportunity to attend President Joe Biden’s press conferences only once in nearly three years. However, on that occasion, he was denied entry. Even for the press conferences where he was permitted to be present, he was “not allowed to ask a question.”

He also requested to interview Biden ahead of the African Leaders Summit at the White House in December 2022, but it was also denied, the suit states.

“After months of not receiving responses to written questions from the White House and not receiving an opportunity to ask questions in the briefing room, Mr. Ateba resorted to one of the only options available to him: speaking up during press briefings,” his lawyers wrote.

“Just like his colleagues, Mr. Ateba would engage in the scrum, shouting his questions to the White House Press Secretary during briefings. And on a few occasions, when the Press Secretary would not acknowledge him, Mr. Ateba would speak over his fellow journalists,” they wrote, noting that ultimately, the White House “did not appreciate this breach of decorum.”

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