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Jason Sudeikis And ‘Ted Lasso’ Cast Appearance At White House Briefing Nearly Derailed By A Reporter’s Interruptions

Deadline 3/20/2023 Ted Johnson
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UPDATED, with additional comment: Jason Sudeikis and the cast of the Apple+ series Ted Lasso appeared at the top of the White House briefing on Monday, telling reporters that he wanted to promote the message of mental well being.

“The big theme of the show is to check in with your neighbor, your coworker, your friends, your family, and ask how they are doing, and listen, sincerely,” Sudeikis said. “You all ask questions for a living, but you all listen for a living. So who am I preaching to? The choir, that is.”

He added, “And while it is easier said than done, we also have to know that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help ourselves.”

Their appearance preceded a planned closed door meeting with President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden to talk about mental health.

But as Sudeikis and the cast took the stage, a reporter interrupted the proceedings, protesting that he had not been called on for seven months at past briefings.

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre spotted the reporter, Simon Ateba of Today News Africa, and said, “No. No. No. We’re not doing this. We’re not doing this.”

He eventually got quiet and Jean-Pierre said, “Are we ready? Are we going to behave?”

“Sorry to our guests. We apologize,” said Kelly O’Donnell of NBC News.

Ateba remained quiet as Sudeikis spoke, but then began to shout again once they left.

One reporter said to him, “The rest of us are here too, pal.” Another reporter said, “If you have grievances you should bring them to her later.” Another reporter shouted at him, “You are impinging on everybody in here who is only trying to do their job.”

Jean-Pierre said, “As you all know, this is the White House press briefing room, a historic room, a room that should have decorum, a room where people should respect their colleagues and respect the guests that are here. I understand there is going to be give and take… I will always respect that. But what I will not appreciate is disrespecting your colleagues and disrespecting guests who were here to talk about an incredibly important issue which is mental health. And what has just occurred this last 10 or 15 minutes is unacceptable. It is unacceptable. So we are going to either continue to the briefing, or we can just end the briefing right here.”

Tamara Keith, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, called the incident an “extreme breakdown of decorum” that “created a hostile work environment for everyone in that room.” She wrote that it was a violation of the collegiality called for in the association’s bylaws, and she pointed to a Q&A that explains how reporters are called upon. The WHCA makes clear that it does not control who can be in the briefing room.

Sudeikis and the cast are the latest celebrities to appear at the Biden-era briefings. Last year, Matthew McConaughey addressed reporters on gun violence, Cyndi Lauper talked about same-sex marriage and BTS created a bit of a sensation with their appearance to address anti-Asian hate. The White House has typically promoted the appearances and meetings with POTUS via social media channels, hoping that certain issue messaging gains a wider audience.

The appearance of the cast at the White House also comes as the show starts its third season.

At the briefing, Sudeikis said, “I know in this town a lot of folks don’t always agree and don’t always feel heard, seen, listened to. But I truly believe that we should all do our best to help take care of each other. That’s my own personal belief. I think that is something that everybody up here on stage believes in. That is a thing we talk about in the writers’ room and we talk about in the editing room, and everything in between.”

He added, “We just want to emulate these make-believe folks that we all play at AFC Richmond and the way that they take care of one another. That is the wish fulfillment of the show, aside from me playing coach and these guys being professional footballers. That is a big part of the show.”

Sudeikis did take one question, from a surprising reporter: Trent Crimm (James Lance) who plays a reporter for The Independent on the show. Crimm asked how he felt about Kansas City, where he grew up, being one of the named hosting cities for the 2026 World Cup.

“I was hoping for a softball,” Sudeikis quipped. “You know what? I am very excited, truth be told….What I am generally worried about is once we get all these folks from all over the world to come to Kansas City and see our city and eat our food and meet our people, you are going to have a lot of folks that will want to move away. That is what I am worried about.”

As he was leaving, one reporter asked Sudeikis whether he would be doing his Biden impression, which he has done on Saturday Night Live. “No, they got the real one here right now,” he said. “I need fake teeth and injected with a lot more chutzpah to pull that off.”

CNN announced later in the day that Jake Tapper would sit down with Sudeikis for a special conversation to be shown at 9 PM ET on Friday.

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