White House Press Briefing Ends Abruptly Amid Heated Confrontation

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre abruptly ended her press briefing on Thursday when White House correspondent Simon Ateba from Today News Africa raised a series of pointed questions she was not prepared to answer.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby had been addressing questions related to Angolan President Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco’s visit to the White House when Ateba tried to ask his own questions, too.

“Can I ask you a follow-up on Angola?” he asked.

However, Jean-Pierre, who was in charge of selecting reporters who would ask questions, would not let him. Instead, she called a different reporter. But Ateba was determined to get his answers.

He voiced his disappointment, saying, “It is so surprising that you don’t take — you are receiving an African leader, but you can’t take a question from an African journalist.”

“We can end this briefing if it’s not going to be respectful here,” Jean-Pierre responded as she walked back to the podium.

Ateba continued to demand answers, even as the reporter called upon was trying to ask their question. At this point, John Kirby, who had been fielding questions, left the podium, and Jean-Pierre took his place. But not to take questions.

“We can end this briefing if it’s not going to be respectful here,” she warned.

Ateba attempted to voice his concerns once more, stating, “That’s what I’m saying. You’re receiving an African leader and you don’t take questions…”

Before he completed his statement, Jean-Pierre gathered her notes and left the podium, visibly angry. As she exited the podium, she blurted out a terse, “Thanks, everybody.”

As other journalists attempted to ask questions, she shut them down, saying, “No, thanks, everybody.”

Jean-Pierre and Simon Ateba have had a series of confrontations in the past, as Ateba has a history of challenging Jean-Pierre and former Press Secretary Jen Psaki for not recognizing him during press briefings. In June, he accused the White House of discrimination for not allowing him to ask questions during briefings.

Last December, Jean-Pierre had similarly walked out of a briefing room when confronted by Ateba for not taking his question during the U.S. Africa Summit. Earlier this year, the White House had even threatened to revoke his press privileges following a heated clash with the press secretary during a June 26 press briefing.

In August, the reporter filed a lawsuit against Jean-Pierre, alleging that his First Amendment right to freedom of the press and the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause were being violated.

“I was simply doing my job by asking the right and tough questions,” he said at the time.

“Without freedom of the press, there cannot be democracy. Without freedom of the press, there cannot be freedom. Without freedom of the press, there cannot be a free and fair election. And I will keep fighting, I will keep doing my job. No president, including President Joe Biden, should be allowed to dictate who covers him.”