Other than Fox News Channel’s White House Correspondent, Peter Doocy, Simon Ateba of Today News Africa was the one reporter who could be counted on to take White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre to task. Whereas others would lob softballs or agree with her, Ateba knew hot to hit where it hurt and twist the knife, metaphorically speaking.
Or at least he did, before the Biden White House banned him from attending the daily White House Press Briefings at which he scuffled with KJP. In the lawsuit, he alleged discrimination against him was the reason for the banning nd argued that administration officials are “leaving biased journalists in charge of who gets to ask the tough questions.”
Today News Africa, which covers politics in the United States and relations between the United States and African nations, reported on the lawsuit, saying that it was filed by the Center for American Liberty. That organization is a nonprofit organization which defends free speech.
We won’t stand for the White House targeting journalists for asking the tough questions. #SimonSays join us in fighting for freedom of the press! @pnjaban @simonateba @EricSell @mark_trammell @MurdockJDF pic.twitter.com/auAppSKGSo
— Center for American Liberty (@Liberty_Ctr) August 10, 2023
The lawsuit argues, “A free and robust press is vital to a healthy democracy. 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 lawsuit also claims that the ban of Mr. Ateba is a violation of the First Amendment, saying, “Defendants’ intentional discrimination against Mr. Ateba and the conditions the White House has placed on obtaining a “hard pass” violate the First Amendment. Mr. Ateba brings this action to vindicate his constitutional rights—the same rights shared by all other members of a free press.”
Further, it explains what the Biden Adminstration allegedly did to keep Mr. Ateba from questioning KJP, saying, “Defendants do not like Mr. Ateba’s behavior—or his questions—during press briefings. But instead of enforcing a decorum requirement equally across all White House correspondents, Defendants simply re-defined who is allowed in the door in the first place. And they did so to specifically exclude Mr. Ateba.”
Additionally, to show that the banning of Mr. Ateba is out of left field and to make the case that it was discrimination against him and his viewpoints that caused it, the lawsuit later notes that such disciplinary action against journalists is rare, saying, “The unpredictable and volatile atmosphere of press briefings breeds disorder, tense exchanges, and, of course, raised voices. Yet the briefing room has historically operated under little more than an informal understanding that all correspondents would act professionally. And while some administrations have adopted more formal expressions of their decorum expectations, they largely exist on paper only. Despite the many instances where journalists failed to adhere to these expectations, formal punishment for decorum violations is exceedingly rare.”
Ateba, posting about the lawsuit on Twitter, said, “I just filed my first amendment lawsuit against the White House. As you know, a few days ago the White House deactivated 442 hard passes, making it difficult for journalists to cover President Biden. Unfortunately, my hard pass was unwanted.”
Watch one of Ateba’s heated fights with KJP here:
Featured image credit: screengrab from the embedded video
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