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White House Press Briefing With 'Ted Lasso' Cast Turns Into Chaos After Reporter Feels Snubbed

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre had to field anger from a reporter who accused her of discrimination by not calling on him in months.

The "Ted Lasso" cast appears during a White House press briefing
Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In a chaotic turn of events, a White House news briefing featuring the cast of Ted Lasso devolved into a heated exchange between reporters on Monday. The altercation escalated and grew more personal after the actors had departed the scene.

Today News Africa's Simon Ateba—who has a history of interrupting news conferences—took issue with White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, complaining that he hadn't been called on in months and accusing her of discrimination.

Jean-Pierre, flanked by the Ted Lasso cast, responded curtly to Ateba's complaints, stating:

"We're not doing this. We're not doing this."

Ateba later aired his grievances on Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight, invoking America's democratic principles.

"This is the U.S. This is not China. This is not Russia."

As the situation threatened to spiral out of control, several reporters implored Ateba to exercise decorum, urging him to let it go. Jean-Pierre herself resorted to sarcasm, welcoming the actors to the press briefing room as the drama continued to unfold.

You can watch what happened in the video below.

You can hear Ateba's remarks below.

Ateba said:

"This is not China. This is not Russia. This is the United States, this is the White House!"
"It's been seven months. I send you emails and you don't respond. It's been seven months [and] you guys have not done anything for me."

Other reporters spoke up, including Reuters correspondent and former White House Correspondents' Association president Jeff Mason, who suggested that if Ateba "has grievances," he could "bring them up later." Amid the chaos, others called for "decorum" in the briefing room.

Jean-Pierre later rebuked Ateba's behavior and called out other members of the media for the spectacle:

“I understand that there’s going to be give and take."
"That’s the way the press briefing has gone for decades, before me and I will always, always respect that but what I will not, what I will not appreciate is disrespecting your colleagues and disrespecting guests who are here to talk, who were here to talk an incredibly important issue which is mental health."
"And what has just occurred this last 10, 15 minutes is unacceptable.”

Footage of the incident—particularly as the Ted Lasso cast stood awkwardly in the background—quickly went viral.

Ateba was harshly criticized.

Despite the tense atmosphere, Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis was present to discuss mental health. However, Ateba's unrelenting demands for attention continued to provoke other reporters, as noted by The Hill. Even as national security spokesperson John Kirby took the podium, Ateba persisted in his complaints.

Ateba has made headlines for outrageous behavior during White House press conferences before.

Last year, he had reporters rolling their eyes after he asked Kate Bedingfield—then the White House Communications Director—to comment on "the biggest story right now," referring to actor Will Smith's response to a joke made by presenter Chris Rock during the Academy Awards telecast.

Ateba asked for a comment on "the level of violence that was unleashed" by Smith, who assaulted Rock on camera in what appeared to be a move to defend his wife, the actress Jada Pinkett Smith, following a crass joke from the comedian about his wife's baldness.

His question was mocked online for taking attention away from more pressing matters, specifically the war in Ukraine, which had started just weeks prior.