WASHINGTON — Another slew of celebrities will visit the White House Tuesday — just a day after a heckling journalist accused President Biden’s staff of making a “mockery of the First Amendment” while hosting the cast of TV show “Ted Lasso” at a press briefing.
Biden will present the National Medal of Arts on Tuesday afternoon to “Veep” and “Seinfeld” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Bruce Springsteen, fashion designer Vera Wang and “The Office” actress and producer Mindy Kaling.
It’s common for presidents to host celebrities at the White House to associate themselves with their popularity or to underscore policy priorities, but the Biden administration often dispatches them to address the press in the briefing room as well.
On Monday afternoon, an actor portraying a fictional reporter on feel-good Apple TV+ show “Ted Lasso” asked the first question of the press briefing — moments after journalist Simon Ateba of Today News Africa bellowed from a fifth-row seat that press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was “making a mockery of the First Amendment” by not taking his questions often enough, as actors from the England-based soccer show stood awkwardly behind her.
It’s unclear if any of the honorees on Tuesday will appear at the press briefing, which is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. — just before the East Room bash around 4:30 p.m.
Ateba’s outburst was widely scorned by fellow reporters, in part because it began at the very start of the briefing and was not an attempt to ask a specific question but rather to air a more general grievance about not being called on — a widely shared frustration that’s usually addressed in a more restrained manner by journalists in the room who can go months without being selected for a single question.
The Biden administration has used the briefing room repeatedly to give a platform to celebrities, who generally depart without taking any questions from real reporters.
Pop star Olivia Rodrigo, then 18, visited the briefing room in July 2021 to encourage fellow teenagers to submit to COVID-19 vaccination.
The Korean boy band BTS followed in May 2022, supposedly to discourage anti-Asian hate crimes in the US. The visit coincided, however, with a political campaign in South Korea to exempt the K-pop stars from mandatory military service because of their value as cultural ambassadors.
In June 2022, actor Matthew McConaughey stood behind the briefing podium to call for new gun control measures after the massacre of 21 people at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school. He too left the stage without taking questions, irking journalists.
“Were you grandstanding just now, sir?” veteran journalist James Rosen of Newsmax shouted as McConaughey left the briefing room.
After the movie star’s exit, ABC reporter Karen Travers, a board member of the White House Correspondents’ Association and a frequent advocate for better press access, asked Jean-Pierre to “commit that going forward, if there is a guest or a celebrity here, that you would ensure that they would stay at the podium and take questions from reporters after they speak.”
“They are a guest, that is not for me to ensure,” Jean-Pierre replied at the time. “They are a guest of ours. It is up to them if they want to take questions or not. We respect them and what they want to do. Matthew was here and when he was done, he said thank you and he walked away. That really is up to him.”
Other celebrities who visited the Biden-era briefing room include “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” singer Cindy Lauper, who appeared in December just before performing at a South Lawn signing ceremony for a bill that reconfirmed the judicially mandated legality of same-sex marriage by repealing the 1996 Defense of Marriage, which then-Sen. Biden backed.
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