The relationship between the Washington press and Pres. Trump’s State Department is off to a rocky start.
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who has covered countless Secretaries of State over the years, was escorted out of a room on Tuesday while attempting to ask Sec. Rex Tillerson and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister questions about China and Russia.
— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) March 7, 2017
Per Poynter, D.C. bureau chiefs from a variety of high-profile news outlets sent a letter to the State Department on Tuesday protesting Tillerson’s move to bail on reporters on his trip to Asia. Tillerson leaves for Japan next Wednesday, and will make stops in South Korea and China.
“We were deeply concerned to hear that Secretary Tillerson plans to travel to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo to hold key meetings about some of the most important foreign policy issues for the United States without any traveling press,” reads the letter. “Not only does this situation leave the public narrative of the meetings up to the Chinese foreign ministry as well as Korea’s and Japan’s, but it gives the American people no window whatsoever into the views and actions of the nation’s leaders.”
Jake Tapper is expressing frustration with the State Department:
Not bringing press on a trip like that is unusual & insulting to any American who is looking for anything but a state-run version of events
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 9, 2017
Chris Hayes appears to agree with Tapper’s sentiment:
The state department has basically gone dark in an unprecedented fashion. Sends a genuinely chilling message to the world. https://t.co/st4AIYQQPG
— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) March 9, 2017
During his confirmation hearing back in January, Tillerson was asked by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker if he planned to keep the media and the public apprised of his activities if confirmed as Sec. of State.
Booker: As Secretary of State, you’re accountable to the American public, and would be expected to keep the media, the public, constantly informed of general activities. I just know that when my staff did a rough calculation of past secretaries interactions with the press, Clinton had over 3,200 in her four years, I think Kerry had about 3,000. When you were at ExxonMobil, it was a far, far smaller number. But I imagine, as Sec. of State you believe in the importance of transparency of engaging with the public of answering to the questions that often come from the media?
Tillerson: Yes and I indicated in my opening statement, that’s part of earning the public trust is also to engage with this committee. And that’s a way to communicate with the public, as well.
Booker: And so you will bring press corps with you if you travel overseas and you will commit to having those regular interactions with the press?
Tillerson: If confirmed, I will look into what would be appropriate to take. I have not — I’ve not gotten that far in my thinking.
Booker: OK. And so you haven’t thought through about — about issues of accountability and transparency?
Tillerson: I have thought through issues of accountability and transparency. Your question was about the size of my press corps, I think.
Booker: No sir, it was not. My question was, access of the media and the public to the work of the secretary of state.
Tillerson: We want to ensure at all times, to confirm the Secretary of State and the State Department is fully transparent with the public. That’s part of my comment of being truthful and being, you know, and holding ourselves accountable, as well as others accountable.