“We are BTS,” said RM, whose official name is Kim Nam-Joon and who is considered the de facto leader of the megagroup, as he stepped up to the briefing 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.”
Opening up to the group, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre noted that “while many of you may know BTS as Grammy-nominated international icons, they also play an important role as youth ambassadors, sending a message of respect and.” of spreading positivity.”
The other group members then took turns delivering their own messages in Korean. Later, an interpreter summarized their 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 respecting each and every one of us as a valuable person to understand.”
Then RM returned to the lectern.
“Finally, we thank President Biden and the White House for providing this important opportunity to speak about the important causes,” he said. “Let’s remember what we can do as artists.”
Following their briefing room moment, BTS headed to the Oval Office to meet with the President in person on the last day of May, designated Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Before BTS attended the press conference, BTS filmed content with the White House digital team and was given a tour of the premises, according to a White House official.
The group’s visit to Biden — which has been closed to press coverage for somewhat inexplicable reasons — was the latest example of this White House using the power of celebrities to draw attention to key priorities.
Last July, the government tasked singer Olivia Rodrigo with promoting coronavirus vaccinations. And just last week, the White House brought actress and singer Selena Gomez to highlight mental health, with Gomez appearing in a three-minute video with Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy to discuss the issue .
But at some points on Tuesday, the sheer hysteria in the briefing room — and outside the gates of the White House — overshadowed the antidiscrimination message the government was trying to get across.
Outside, hundreds of fans – mostly young girls – gathered hoping to get a detached look at the K-pop group, and while they waited in the scorching sun, they chanted the names of the seven members and shouted, “BTS! BTS!”
Inside, at least half an hour before the briefing was scheduled to begin, a crowd of interested journalists, many of them of Korean descent, crowded the aisles – making the already cramped space even more stuffy. Veteran journalists quipped that the briefing room hadn’t been this crowded since Sean Spicer’s days as press secretary, when the meetings became a must-watch for the wrong reasons, at least for Donald Trump’s administration.
Tuesday’s live stream of the White House briefing usually draws a few hundred interested viewers. But well before the 2:30 p.m. session began, about 11,000 had settled in for the show. Around 71,000 people were online ten minutes before the briefing. A few minutes after the briefing officially began – which started a few minutes behind schedule – a whopping 197,000 were watching.
More than 300,000 were still live-streaming when Deese, the director of the White House National Economic Council, stepped up to the lectern and began to speak. (Viewership fell precipitously the longer Deese talked about inflation.)
“Okay, so I can go home and tell my kids BTS is open for me,” Deese said, as reporters laughed. “I wasn’t expecting that when I woke up this morning. And I know you’re all here to talk about trimmed mean inflation and you’re as excited about it as you are about it.”