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Reporter sues Biden spox Karine Jean-Pierre and Secret Service

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)
August 14, 2023

Simon Ateba, White House correspondent for Today News Africa, is suing White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and the Secret Service after having his press pass revoked.

Ateba’s lawsuit claims that the White House’s new press policy that allows a reporter’s press pass to be revoked is a violation of the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment.

“Defendants violated Mr. Ateba’s First Amendment rights by changing the criteria for hard pass credentials to intentionally prevent Mr. Ateba from obtaining hard pass access,” the lawsuit states.

According to Ateba’s lawsuit, the reporter “interacts with, and requests information from” the press office of the White House just like other political correspondents; however, Ateba claims that he has been “treated with contempt by the current Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, and her staff.”

Ateba’s lawsuit was announced after over 440 reporters had their press passes revoked earlier this month. The White House previously announced an updated press policy in May that allows for reporters to have their press passes revoked. The White House’s announcement also told journalists they would be required to re-apply for a press pass by the end of July, according to the New York Post.

“My job is to ask questions, to ask tough questions,” Ateba said in a Friday interview on Newsmax. “The public has a right to know and the journalist has a right, a duty to tell.” Ateba’s lawsuit adds that the press “does not just include a small class of elite journalists, credentialed by one another.”

According to The Hill, the White House warned Ateba in July that he could have his press pass revoked as a result of his press briefing interruptions. the reporter’s lawsuit explains that after “months” of being ignored by the White House press office, “Mr. Ateba chose to utilize the only option available to him: speaking up during press briefings.”

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Ateba’s lawsuit acknowledges multiple occasions where the reporter “asserted himself” in the press briefing room and spoke over the White House press secretary, as well as other reporters “in an attempt to make his concerns known.”

“Defendants do not like Mr. Ateba’s behavior—or his questions—during press briefings,” the lawsuit states. “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.”

The lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s press secretary and the Secret Service alleges “intentional discrimination” against the Today News Africa reporter, claiming that the requirements placed on Ateba to obtain a “hard pass” is a violation of the First Amendment.

The lawsuit states, “Mr. Ateba brings this action to vindicate his constitutional rights—the same rights shared by all other members of a free press.”