“Dynamite” guest at White House: BTS meets with Biden on anti-Asian discrimination

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A horde of enthusiastic reporters began filling the hallways of the White House information room Tuesday long before the daily stop session with reporters began, and they were not there for Brian Deese.

Over the course of an afternoon, the White House became an exclusive setting for the global K-pop BTS phenomenon, with each of the 49 seats in the newsrooms becoming the city’s most coveted entrances. The group had been invited by the administration to raise awareness about the prevalence of anti-Asian discrimination.

“We’re BTS,” RM said, whose formal name is Kim Nam-Joon and is considered the de facto leader of the megagroup as he approached the information room lectern. “It is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion and diversity.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who opened up to the group, noted that while “many of you know BTS as Grammy-nominated international icons, they also have an important role to play as youth ambassadors, promoting a message of respect and positivity. ”

The other members of the group then returned their own Korean messages. One interpreter later summed up her various messages, such as: “Equality begins when we open up and embrace all our differences” and “we hope that today is a step forward in respecting and understanding everyone as a valuable person.”

Then RM returned to the lectern.

“Finally, we thank President Biden and the White House for giving us this important opportunity to talk about important causes,” he said. “Remind ourselves what we can do as artists.”

After its star turn in the newsroom, BTS headed to the Oval Office to meet with the same president on the last day of May, designated as Asian-American, Hawaiian and Island Heritage Month. of the Pacific. Prior to joining the news conference, BTS filmed content with the White House digital team and toured the venue, according to a White House official.

The group’s visit with Biden, which was somewhat inexplicably closed to press coverage, was the latest example of this White House harnessing the power of celebrities to draw attention to key priorities. .

Last July, the administration hired singer Olivia Rodrigo to promote coronavirus vaccines. And last week, the White House brought in actress and singer Selena Gomez to highlight mental health, with Gomez appearing in a three-minute video with Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, and Vivek H. Murthy, the general surgeon. to talk about the topic.

But at some point on Tuesday, the anti-discrimination message the administration wanted to convey was somewhat overshadowed by pure hysteria inside the information room and outside the White House.

Outside, hundreds of fans, mostly young girls, gathered in hopes of looking away from the K-pop group, and as they waited under the scorching sun, they chanted the names of the seven members and shouted. : “BTS! BTS!”

Inside, dozens of interested journalists, many of them of Korean descent, filled the hallways at least half an hour before the briefing was supposed to begin, making the already cramped room even more suffocating. Veteran reporters said the newsroom had not been so full since Sean Spicer’s days as press secretary, when the sessions became a must-see television for all the wrong reasons, at least for the administration. by Donald Trump.

Tuesday’s live broadcast of the White House briefing usually draws a few hundred interested viewers. But long before the 2:30 p.m. session, about 11,000 had settled into the show. Ten minutes before the briefing, about 71,000 were online. A couple of minutes after the official start of the briefing, which began a few minutes late, 197,000 people were watching.

More than 300,000 were still live as Deese, the director of the White House National Economic Council, approached the lectern and began speaking. (Spectator numbers plummeted the longer Deese talked about inflation).

“Okay, I have to go home and tell my kids that BTS has opened up to me,” Deese said, while reporters laughed. “I didn’t expect it when I woke up this morning. And I know you’re all here to talk about the cut average inflation, and you’re just as excited about it as they are.”

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