African Journalist Kicked out of White House Correspondents Association, Alleges It Has a Double Standard

A journalist has accused the group that liaises between the White House and the press corps—the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA)—of discriminating against him by kicking him out of the association and having a double standard.

Simon Ateba, the founder and chief White House correspondent for Today News Africa, was informed last week that his membership to the WHCA would not be renewed. Members are required to renew their membership as early as Jan. 1.

“I regret to inform you that your application for membership has been declined,” WHCA executive director Steven Thomma wrote to Ateba, who is from Cameroon, in a letter seen by The Epoch Times.

“Your application was carefully reviewed by a committee of journalists looking at your listed news organization and your assignment based on all of the information you provided and any other information they found available,” he continued.

Thomma noted that the committee “did not see evidence that [Ateba is] ‘employed on the editorial staff of a newspaper, periodical, wire service, radio, TV, or other news-gathering organization that reports on the White House’ as required by our by-laws.”

However, Today News Africa has been reporting on the White House since the Trump administration and Ateba held WHCA associate membership between 2021 and 2022.

Thomma also wrote that “the committee noted repeated instances where your behavior violated the expectations for membership outlined in our bylaws, which have been detailed to you previously.”

The Epoch Times reached out to Thomma for comment. WHCA president Tamara Keith, a White House correspondent for National Public Radio, declined to comment to The Epoch Times.

Ateba has repeatedly feuded with the White House, especially press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

In December 2021, Ateba shouted questions during a White House press briefing about the Biden administration’s travel bans on Botswana, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In May 2022, Ateba was reprimanded by the WHCA for interrupting Jen Psaki’s last day as White House press secretary. The WHCA threatened him with expulsion.

The following August, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby rebuked Ateba for interrupting a briefing.

In November, Jean-Pierre exploded at Ateba saying “I’m done with you” for sticking up for a reporter trying to ask Anthony Fauci, during his final White House press briefing, about the origins of COVID.

The WHCA afterward reprimanded him.

In December, Ateba sought to ask a question ahead of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit but was rejected by Jean-Pierre, who proceeded to storm out of the press briefing.

Ateba told The Epoch Times that he intends to take legal action against the WHCA. He said his lawyer will write to the association to tell them they have time to reverse their decision or else a lawsuit will be filed against them.

Ateba accused the WHCA of a double standard in that there were journalists during the Trump administration, including CNN’s Jim Acosta, who came under fire for showboating and acting like activists as opposed to journalists.

“If Jim Acosta does it, if CNN does it, they believe that those are the people that they should fight for, right?” he said. “They believe that those people are more important. They believe that those people are worth it.”

Ateba accused the WHCA, Keith, and Jean-Pierre of having a superiority complex.

“There’s this level of disdain, this level of ‘I’m better than you. You come from Africa. We’re doing you a favor to be at the White House covering U.S.-Africa relations,’” he said.

Ateba alleged racial discrimination against him by Jean-Pierre.

“She believes that she’s better than me, right?” he said. “Karine Jean-Pierre, she believes that the other people in the briefing room they’re better than the people who come from Africa, right?

“When she talks to a white person, you know, she [believes] that, you know, this [is] a great person. When she talks to me [she feels I’m] an inferior person.”

Ateba accused the WHCA of “colluding” with Jean-Pierre “to silence me.”

Thomma’s letter noted that Ateba has publicly said that he does not receive a salary, which Thomma said is a violation of WHCA membership rules—even though such a requirement does not appear in the WHCA bylaws.

Despite being denied renewed membership, Ateba has said he will continue to cover the White House.

By not having WHCA membership, Ateba will not be allowed certain access including being part of the press pool—a small group of journalists covering the president and other principals on trips and at certain events—and invitations to association events such as the annual glitzy White House Correspondents Dinner.

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