Today News Africa reporter Simon Ateba flipped the script during Thursday’s White House press briefing when he asked Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki about the administration’s “racist travel ban” on several African nations over the COVID-19 Omicron variant.
As Psaki tried to move on to other reporters, Ateba remained persistent, and repeated his question several times. Psaki finally called on him and allowed him to ask his question.
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Ateba brought up the fact that South Africa accounts for just six percent of the Omicron cases, yet at least 70 countries have imposed travel restrictions just on African countries.
Ateba then went in for the “kill” question. “What would you say to those who believe that this is a racist ban, that it is only on African and black African nations?”
As expected, Jen Psaki immediately went about the task of twisting herself into a pretzel to assure Ateba that was absolutely not the case:
“Simon, I would convey to you that that is absolutely not the intention, that is not our policy. This was a recommendation of the health and medical experts because there was a large number of cases in South Africa, and they made a decision early on out of an abundance of caution to protect the American people to slow the spread of the variant.”
Watch the exchange:
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Psaki continued her pretzel twisting by saying to Simon Ateba that the travel ban is certainly not permanent and in no way meant to be some sort of punishment. She also said that the administration will seek to lift the restrictions based on recommendations from White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other members of the White House COVID team.
But Simon Ateba is not the only one to raise an eyebrow to the Biden administration’s choice of banned countries. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gutteres called such travel restrictions “travel apartheid.”
This was not the first time Simon Ateba has called out Jen Psaki. Shortly following the implementation of the African travel ban, Ateba said Psaki was not telling the truth about the criteria for which countries were singled out for the ban. Even shouting above other reporters, “You are saying something that is false,” when Psaki refused to call on him for a question.
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