June 30, 2022

'Dynamite' guest at the White House: BTS meets with Biden on discrimination against Asia

‘Dynamite’ guest at the White House: BTS meets with Biden on discrimination against Asia

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A mob of excited reporters began crowding the corridors of the White House briefing room on Tuesday, long before the daily dashing session with reporters began — and they weren’t around with Brian Daisy.

One afternoon, the White House became the exclusive stage for global K-pop phenomenon BTS, with each of the 49 seats in their briefing room becoming the city’s most coveted ticket. The administration had called on the group to raise awareness of the spread of discrimination against Asians.

“We are BTS,” RM, whose official name is Kim Nam-Joon and is considered the de facto leader of the giant group, said as he took to the podium of the briefing room. “It is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crime, Asian integration and diversity.”

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

The other group members then took turns handing out their own messages in Korean. Later, one of the translators summarized their various messages, such as: “Equality begins when we open up and accept all our differences” and “We hope today will be one step forward towards respecting and understanding each individual as a person of value.”

Then RM returned to the podium.

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

After their star turned into the briefing room, BTS headed to the Oval Office to meet with the president himself on the last day of May, which has been designated Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Before joining the news briefing, BTS filmed content with the White House Digital Team and toured the site, according to a White House official.

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

Last July, the management recruited singer Olivia Rodrigo for promotion Corona Virus vaccinations. And just last week, the White House brought in actress and singer Selena Gomez to highlight mental health, as Gomez appeared in Three minute video With Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy to discuss this issue.

But at some points on Tuesday, sheer hysteria inside the conference room — and outside the White House gates — overshadowed the anti-discrimination message the administration wanted to convey.

Outside, hundreds of fans – mostly girls – gathered in hopes of catching a distant look at K-pop, and as they waited in the blazing sun, they cheered the names of the seven members and shouted, “BTS! BTS!”

Inside, dozens of interested journalists, many of Korean descent, packed the corridors at least half an hour before the briefing began—making the already cramped room even more claustrophobic. Veteran journalists quipped that the briefing room hadn’t been this crowded since the days of Sean Spicer as press secretary, when sessions became a must-watch for all the wrong reasons, at least for the Donald Trump administration.

The live stream of Tuesday’s White House briefing usually draws a few hundred interested viewers. But before the 2:30 p.m. session begins, about 11,000 have settled into the show. Ten minutes before the briefing, there were about 71 thousand people online. Two minutes into the official start of the briefing – which started a few minutes later – 197,000 people were watching the event.

More than 300,000 were still in the live broadcast as Dess, director of the White House National Economic Council, took to the stage and began speaking. (Viewer numbers drop sharply the longer Deese talks about inflation.)

“Okay, I’ll go home and tell my kids that BTS opened up for me,” said Des, while the reporters laughed. “I wasn’t expecting it when I woke up this morning. I know you’re all here to talk about mean contractile hypertrophy, and you’re just as excited about it as you are for them.”