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Karine Jean-Pierre's most memorable clashes with reporters throughout 2023
December 26 2023, 08:00

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre's second year on the job consisted of memorable moments where she clashed with reporters. 

White House press secretaries of both parties often push back and have combative exchanges with the media while taking questions, and Jean-Pierre was no exception in 2023.

While Jean-Pierre is often a target of Republicans for her answers and explanations over her comments, White House reporters themselves have challenged the press secretary during the daily briefings, with some accusing her of stifling freedom of the press.

As President Biden comes under more scrutiny for his low approval numbers, his alleged involvement with his son Hunter Biden's business dealings, and his advanced age, Jean-Pierre has had to deal with reporters' questions on these issues. 

Here are some of the more memorable clashes from the past year: 


In January, the White House revealed that classified documents from Biden’s time as vice president were found at Penn Biden Center back in November 2022. Biden had previously lambasted former President Trump as "irresponsible" for keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home.

CBS reporter Ed O’Keefe pressed the White House on Biden's possession of classified documents, though Jean-Pierre insisted that she was "not going to go beyond what my White House counsel colleagues have stated." O’Keefe pushed back against her refusal to answer questions in what became a "contentious" exchange. 

"So, you're the one here talking to us about this. That's why we're asking you. So let's just remember that," O'Keefe said to Jean-Pierre.

"Ed, Ed, Ed, we don't need to have this – we work very well together," Jean-Pierre interrupted. "We don't need to have this kind of confrontation. Ask your question and I will answer them the best that I can."

"Part of the reason we're laying that out is because you're laying out your part of the job, we're laying out our part of the job, which is asking questions," O'Keefe shot back. 

"I know, but I'm just saying we don't need to have contention – you don't need to be contentious with me here, Ed," Jean-Pierre responded.

In April, Jean-Pierre became agitated with NBC reporter Kristen Welker as she asked about the conflict between congressional Republicans and the president on raising the debt ceiling. Jean-Pierre insisted that the conflict was a "political stunt" by the GOP to force spending cuts and solely blamed the Republican Party for refusing to pass a clean bill.

"But doesn't everyone bear responsibility, including — and especially — the president?" Welker asked.

"The responsibility to make sure that we do not default? It sits in the hands of Congress. And right now it is Speaker McCarthy and the MAGA wing… of the Republican conference. It is up to them to get this done. They are wasting time. And I've already laid out what they did propose, how much that's going to hurt American families who are trying to make ends meet," Jean-Pierre responded.

Welker pointed out, "The president said, ‘Show me your budget.’ He didn't say, ‘Show me a budget that I agree with.’"

Jean-Pierre repeatedly interrupted, "Well, you have to finish — you have to finish the statement. He said — well, you have to finish what he said," she said as Welker continued trying to ask a question. "The statement that he made — his quote is, 'Show me your budget, and I'll show you what you value.' That's what the president said. And by looking at this blueprint, by looking at the plan, they are certainly showing us their value."

Ateba has frequently sparred with Jean-Pierre, accusing her of discriminating against him and other reporters by ignoring members of the press placed in the back of the room. Those fights escalated multiple times throughout the year.

One of the more contentious exchanges occurred in June after Jean-Pierre insisted that the White House was "committed to the freedom of the press."

Ateba followed up, asking, "So are you going to take questions from me?… because you’ve been discriminating against me for the past nine months."

"You’re incredibly rude. You’re being incredibly rude," Jean-Pierre responded before later adding, "If this continues, we’re going to end the press briefing."

"I’ve been in this briefing room. I’ve been trying to ask you one question when I am on," Ateba responded. "You're not giving freedom of the press."

Ateba previously attacked Jean-Pierre for "making a mockery of the First Amendment" in March.

"This is not China. This is not Russia. What you are doing you’re making a mockery of the First Amendment," Ateba said at one point.

Throughout the rant, a woman offscreen repeatedly yelled "decorum," urging Ateba to quiet down. Attempting to make light of the situation, Karine Jean-Pierre turned around to the Lasso cast and said, "fun times, welcome, guys," before asking Ateba if he was "going to behave."

The White House press corps members appeared agitated with Ateba, grumbling and sporadically yelling at him to cease his vocal displeasure with Jean-Pierre’s conduct.


In June, the House Ways and Means Committee released testimony from IRS whistleblowers who alleged misconduct in the handling of the tax probe investigating Biden's son Hunter. Among the findings was an alleged WhatsApp text message Hunter Biden sent to a Chinese business associate using his father as part of what Republicans say was an illicit scheme.

Reporters from CNN, New York Times, New York Post, Newsmax and NBC News all pressed Jean-Pierre on these allegations, only for the press secretary to refuse to answer. 

"I'm just not going to get into family discussion, personal family discussion," Jean-Pierre initially responded. "As you know, Hunter's his son. I'm just not going to get into that."

After repeated questions on the whistleblowers’ testimonies, Jean-Pierre appeared even more agitated towards New York Post correspondent Steven Nelson.

"Steven, Steven, I just answered the question," she sternly replied. "It's not up to you how I answer the question. I just answered the question by telling you my colleagues at the White House counsel have dealt with this, and I would refer you to them."

Jean-Pierre also stated that she was not planning on discussing the matter with the president.

In October, Nelson sparred once again with Jean-Pierre, calling her out for not answering his questions for "two seasons." After she tried to dismiss him, he tore into her for disrespecting independent media.

"You should be ashamed of that. That shows disrespect to a free and independent media, to blacklist one of our country's largest and most widely read newspapers, Karine. That shows contempt for a free and independent press," Nelson said.

"I'm calling on somebody who I haven't called on for a long time as well. Go ahead," Jean-Pierre responded before taking a different question.

On his X account, Nelson elaborated, "The @NYPost is our country's oldest daily newspaper. We have 4th-largest print circulation and only NY Times has more web traffic @PressSec last called on me in May, and on a colleague in July. The May exchange was also about press freedom issues."

In a comment to Fox News Digital, White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said, "Karine represents President Biden with honesty, courage, and integrity as she fields the tough questions that reporters are supposed to ask with grace."


The Times added it was "curious" for Fox News to highlight the exchanges reporters have with Jean-Pierre since Fox host Kayleigh McEnany, a former press secretary for President Trump, had frequent clashes with the media.