Today News Africa Chief White House correspondent Simon Ateba described his ongoing conflict with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre after receiving the “Winner of 2022” award by Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”
Ateba gained recognition throughout 2022 for repeatedly confronting Jean-Pierre and former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki for making it a priority to call on reporters in the front rows of the briefing room, and commonly leaving those sitting towards the back with unanswered questions.
He appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” Friday to accept the “Winner of 2022” award, where he described the hardships of being a White House reporter in the briefing room.
“It’s been really hard covering the White House, it’s been hell and I don’t know how I was able to sustain my strength,” Ateba told the program’s guest host, Tulsi Gabbard. “I’ve worked really hard and even without money, I have not received a salary for the past three years but I kept doing my job because I believe that there’s a place to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Africa.”
“As you know, Today News Africa focuses on U.S.-African relations and I find fulfillment when I do the right thing, when I ask the right question, when I seek the truth, when I continue to push Karine Jean-Pierre who has discriminated against me for months now. I find fulfillment when I continue to just push for the truth, ask the right question and make sure that the American people and the African people also get to have the answers that it deserves. I went into journalism because I wanted to make a difference, and I’m happy to be here.”
Ateba has faced scrutiny from Jean-Pierre and some of his colleagues in the briefing room for becoming confrontational at the press briefings in order to ask a question. He derailed Psaki’s final briefing May 13 as he talked over two reporters, which led the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) to threaten his expulsion in a letter over the incident.
The Today News Africa reporter said he received the letter with a “heavy heart” and labeled himself a victim in the situation. The letter led him to question whether press freedom is truly practiced in the U.S. (RELATED: African Reporter Simon Ateba Slams White House For ‘Rigged’ Election Press Conference)
“I have sacrificed everything for journalism,” he said in mid-May. “I have done no other job across various continents. I have been arrested, detained, accused of being a spy for Boko Haram while doing an investigative report on Nigerian refugees in Chad and Cameroon. I have been attacked by pirates on the Gulf of Guinea, kidnapped from a car in Lagos, dumped in the woods and left for dead. Am I not worth asking a question at least once a month? Am I not being in the room when President Biden receives President Kenyatta of Kenya? Am I less? Is that what press freedom is?”
More recently, Ateba sparred with Jean-Pierre after she refrained from calling on Daily Caller White House correspondent Diana Glebova who blurted out a question about the origins of COVID-19 at a Nov. 22 briefing. He told the press secretary that White House Senior Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, who was present at the briefing, was the most qualified person to answer Glebova’s question.
“If you’re going to hold a press briefing, you need to call on people across the room,” Ateba said. “She has a valid question. She’s asking about the origin of COVID … Fauci’s the best person to answer this question.”
“I hear the question, but we’re not doing this the way you want it,” Jean-Pierre snapped. “This is disrespectful. Simon, I’m done. I’m done with you right now. You’re taking time away from your colleagues.”
The press secretary also stormed out of the Dec. 8 briefing as Ateba yelled out a question about the U.S.-Africa Summit, where President Joe Biden intended to meet with 50 African leaders. Following the incident, Ateba told the Daily Caller that Jean-Pierre should be “ashamed of herself” and accused her of “discrimination” for not calling on him.