In 2021, the White House Press Office loosened the requirements for reporters to obtain “hard passes” to attend daily press briefings. The update was part of a self-serving endeavor by the White House to declare itself the savior of the free press. These new requirements allowed smaller, independent reporters to gain greater regular access to the White House in order to provide coverage of Biden’s activities in office.
So that’s just what Simon Ateba did.
Simon regularly attended the White House Press Secretary’s briefings, but he noticed a pattern. Despite now having a seat in the room alongside the bigger media conglomerates, the Press Secretary completely ignored Simon’s questions. He raised his hand in briefings, he submitted written requests for information and comment—but he was shut out from any real access to the White House’s happenings.
Frustrated, Simon began to speak up during the briefings to make his voice impossible to ignore.
But of course, despite claims of being the champion of the free press, the Biden White House couldn’t handle Simon’s critical questions.
Rather than be held accountable, the White House decided to shut Simon out altogether.
In May, under the deceptive excuse of protecting security and ensuring decorum in press briefings, the White House Press Office revoked all existing hard passes from White House reporters and announced new, more stringent criteria for gaining regular access to the White House briefing room.
Hidden in the new list of criteria for the hard pass is a sneaky requirement that each reporter first have press credentials from the Supreme Court or one of the four Congressional Press Galleries. While this requirement doesn’t seem too extreme on its surface, it actually poses a significant burden for reporters like Simon. Here’s why:
- The Supreme Court only issues press credentials to reporters who cover the Supreme Court full time. In other words, no White House reporter could ever qualify for these credentials, making this requirement entirely meaningless.
- Contrary to what the name implies, the Congressional Press Galleries aren’t government-run, objective credentialling institutions. They’re made up entirely of DC insider journalists from elitest media outlets. And the one criterion they use for issuing credentials to other journalists is that the applying journalist be “reputable.” The definition of “reputable” is left entirely up to this group of reporters who are knee deep in the Swamp and openly hostile to reporters like Simon who don’t adhere to their DC elitest standards.
The effect? The White House has delegated its press-room gatekeeping function to insider DC journalists who look down on independent news outlets, like Simon’s.
It is clear that the White House changed its credentialing requirements specifically to exclude Simon, in direct violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press.
This is why Simon is taking the White House to court.
A free press is a cornerstone of a thriving democracy. Whether it is for Simon Ateba or for any other American, the First Amendment must be protected. That’s why this case, Ateba v. Jean-Pierre, is so important. If the media are going to be truly free to hold the government to account—regardless of who is in the White House—we must stop this Administration’s attempt to shut down reporters like Simon.
Support this important case today and preserve liberty for tomorrow!