White House briefing room troublemaker Simon Ateba is suing press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre after new rules prevented him from keeping his pass, the credential that allows journalists to 24/7 access to the media-only areas of the President’s Official Residence.
Ateba’s antics — interrupting speakers on the podium, shouting over other reporters and sometimes ending briefings prematurely — angered not only officials but other reporters as well.
The Cameroonian-born writer received repeated warnings about his behavior but became a cause celebre on Fox News after accusing the White House of censorship and Jean-Pierre of racism.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, he accused the White House of changing rules to specifically bar him from entering the briefing room.
“Defendants violated Mr. Ateba’s First Amendment rights by altering the credential requirements to intentionally prevent Mr. Ateba from obtaining difficult access,” the lawsuit states.
Simon Ateba writes for ‘Africa News Today.’ Under new rules, he lost his ‘hard pass’, a media credential allowing 24-hour access to the White House
All White House reporters had to apply this year to renew their passes.
Ateba, who writes for his own Africa News Today website, was among those who lost theirs.
On Tuesday, one of the most prominent articles on his website bore the headline: “Oppressed journalist Simon Ateba fights for press freedom in historic White House case.”
“My job is to ask questions, to ask tough questions,” Ateba told Newsmax on Friday.
“The public has the right to know and the journalist has the right, the duty to say.”
Despite the obscurity of his website, Ateba repeatedly insisted that Jean-Pierre call him during briefings. When she didn’t, he resorted to shouting.
In March, he interrupted a comedy session with the cast of “Ted Lasso” to demand that she answer his question.
He was greeted by a chorus of “decorum, please” from irate journalists, many of whom also struggle to get Jean-Pierre’s attention as often as they would like.
Even before that, he had been reprimanded by the White House Correspondents’ Association.
Ateba trial names press officer Karine Jean-Pierre as defendant
His case was filed Thursday in Washington D.C. District Court, laying out a case based on the First Amendment
“No journalist has the right to be called by a public official,” then-president Steven Portnoy wrote in an email to Ateba obtained by Mediate. “Preventing your colleagues from asking their questions is not a way to seek redress.”
The association did not renew its membership this year. He reportedly cited a lack of evidence that he is employed by a news agency that covers the White House.
Still, Ateba insists he’s been singled out for unfair treatment.
“Like other White House correspondents, Mr. Ateba regularly interacts with the White House press office and requests information from it for his coverage,” his lawsuit states.
“But in the five years since he joined the White House press corps, Mr. Ateba has been treated with contempt by the current press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, and her staff, receiving no only a handful of questions answered and almost no opportunity to communicate meaningfully with the White House.
Ateba’s battles with White House officials have made him a right-wing media favorite
The new rules require reporters to show proof of employment by a Washington-based media outlet and have credentials issued by a House, Senate or Supreme Court press gallery.
His lawsuit says Supreme Court credentials are hard to come by.
“The congressional press galleries are only marginally better,” he continues.
“Executive committees self-selected by the journalists who make up the Congressional press corps govern each of the four press galleries.
“And these executive committees only issue credentials to journalists they themselves deem ‘trustworthy’. As a result, well-established mainstream media have the power to choose which journalists can access Congress and the White House.
Along with Ateba, around 400 journalists also lost their passes under the new procedure.
They can still check in from the briefing room, but must register a day in advance to gain access rather than just using their pass to enter.