White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s final briefing with the White House press pool was rather chaotic on Friday as one reporter took the opportunity to heckle the resigning press secretary.
As Paski emotionally began to thank members of the Biden administration and to take questions from the crowd, Simon Ateba, the chief White House correspondent for Today News Africa, could be heard yelling from the back of the press briefing room, the New York Post reported.
As Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller attempted to start the briefing by asking Psaki about the ongoing baby formula shortage, Ateba shouted, “Why don’t you take questions from across the room?”
After Psaki did not acknowledge his statement, Ateba shouted, “Why don’t you take questions from across the room? Because that’s not what you’ve done for the past 15 months.”
Psaki did not appear phased by Ateba’s lack of briefing room decorum, but the chaos continued as Ateba resumed shouting over his colleagues just minutes later.
He was heard repeatedly saying: “Jen, can I ask you a question from the back?”
As Ateba’s interruptions continued, his colleagues in the press briefing room grew increasingly frustrated. NPR’s Tamara Keith turned around in her seat and urged him to desist from heckling.
“Simon, please, stop,” she could be heard saying.
Nevertheless, Ateba’s crusade continued as his persistently shouted over other reporters as they asked Psaki questions.
Finally having enough, Psaki turned to him and said, “Simon, if you can respect your colleagues and other media and reporters in here, that would be greatly appreciated.”
After Ateba’s vocal protest settled down, Peter Alexander from NBC News said that he would voluntarily limit himself to only asking two questions so that his colleagues would have more time to pose inquiries to the resigning press secretary. Historically, White House reporters have adhered to an informal norm of limiting exchanges with the administration’s spokesperson to two questions.
Ateba and Psaki have come to blows multiple times before the former’s Friday outbursts.
Psaki has long been criticized for strictly taking questions from reporters in the first few rows of the briefing room, often excluding foreign media outlets like Ateba’s.
In December, Ateba shouted over his colleagues as he accused Psaki of lying to the media about coronavirus related travel restrictions.
“You are saying something that is false,” Ateba shouted at Psaki.
Ateba has also previously accused various COVID-19 travel restrictions of being “racist” and has a history of interrupting White House briefing guests.