A chaotic scene erupted during the Dr Anthony Fauci’s final press conference on Tuesday when a reporter began shouting over his colleagues and demanding that White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre take a question about the origins of Covid-19.
Dr Fauci, the outgoing director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, had just finished discussing the state of the Covid-19 pandemic and stepped back to wait for questions when a number of journalists began shouting their queries.
This is not uncommon for press conferences, but Ms Jean-Pierre called on them to stop and said that she would call on individual reporters to ask their questions, warning them that by shouting questions they would waste their colleague’s and Dr Fauci’s time.
During the shouting, one reporter — who is believed to be Diana Glebova of the Daily Caller — can be heard asking a question about the origins of the virus, but she was not called on.
After Ms Jean-Pierre shuts down the shouting, another reporter — Simon Ateba, the chief White House correspondent for Today News Africa, began arguing with Ms Jean-Pierre for not calling on Glebova.
“You should allow her to ask her question,” Ateba says in the clip. “She’s asking a valid question to Dr Fauci on the origin of Covid-19 —”
Ms Jean-Pierre interrupts him, telling him “it’s not your turn.”
“You call on the same people, you called a press briefing, you need to call on people from across the room,” he said, accusing Ms Jean-Pierre of playing favorite in the press corps. “[Glebova] has a valid question, she’s asking about the origin of Covid-19, and Dr Fauci is the best person to answer that question.”
Ms Jean-Pierre insisted that she “hears the question” but that “we’re not doing this the way you want it.”
She then calls on another reporter, who asks about vaccination rates.
This isn’t the first time Ms Jean-Pierre has gotten into spats with reporters who shout questions over their colleagues. At least twice she has chastised Angolan TV anchor Hariana Veras for calling out questions while other reporters — who were given the floor — were making queries.
She accused Ms Jean-Pierre of ignoring African reporters.
“We have been asking for questions, Karine, every time. And even when you give questions to Simon it’s because he forced,” Ms Veras said, according to Mediaite. “We don’t need to force for questions. We also deserve to have a question. Do you have something against African reporters?”
The “Simon” she referenced was Ateba, who was a central actor in Tuesday’s spat.