Following up on Wednesday’s reports from Sudan:
“Andrea Mitchell said she felt angry and humiliated after Sudanese bodyguards dragged her out of a room Thursday for questioning President Omar el-Bashir about his involvement in the country’s violence,” the Associated Press says.
“I was angry and a little bit humiliated,” Mitchell said on Hardball with Chris Matthews Thursday night. “You don’t like to become, you know, part of the story.” Read the rest of her comments, after the jump…
TRANSCRIPT: Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell is traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice right now. And she was ejected from a press photo-op with Secretary Rice and the President of Sudan after she asked the Sudanese President a tough question. Andrea joins us now by phone from Israel. Andrea, give us the first-hand account of what was done to you.
MITCHELL: Well it was – you know – the funny thing was, it was not only I, it was also the State Department officials. When Condi Rice got to the President’s villa for this photo-op, her translator was not permitted to go in, the top officials going with her, the head of the AID, some of them didn’t even get in. So for the first six minutes of her meeting with the President, six or seven minutes, she had no Arabic translator. They sat there looking at each other, nobody could talk. I mean, the whole thing was a mess. Jim Wilkinson, one of her top advisors, was slammed against a wall, and then they started on the press. They tried to stop us from going in, repeatedly, and they said no questions could be asked. State Department officials said, you can’t set those rules, that’s not freedom of the press. That was Shawn McCormick, the State Department spokesman. And his counterpart, his Sudanese counterpart said, well, there is no free press. Which basically, you know, set the stage for what then happened. I walked in, they – one guy – one security guy, punched me as I was walking into the photo op, and I pushed my way in. They were trying to block our access. We get inside, and I asked a question, which, according to American rules, is what we do. I mean this was the first chance we had to question the President of Sudan, you know many people believe, is responsible for much of the misery and violence that’s been perpetrated there. And at that point, by asking him about the broken promises to control the violence, they kicked me out. They pulled me out. Two guys got me from behind, and grabbed me and pulled me out, Chris, it was quite a scene.
MATTHEWS: Were you afraid?
MITCHELL: I was angry and a little bit humiliated. You don’t like to become, you know, part of the story. I mean, Secretary Rice is raising really important questions with this President of Sudan. They have a new coalition government, the brought the rebels into the government. It’s the first chance to do something about the fact that two million people have been slaughtered, hundreds of thousands have been displaced. We then, of course, went to the main reason for the trip, besides the diplomacy, was just to see the refugee camps in Darfur to listen to the tales of these women who’ve been raped and soldiers in uniform perpetrating many of the acts of violence both inside and outside the camp. And some of the people I talked to had been there for eighteen months or longer. And they’re afraid to go back to their villages, and in most cases the villages are gone. Two thousand villages have been destroyed. And its a catastrophe. And Americans have poured two billion dollars of aid alone, that’s just the aid over the past couple of years, the third largest aid recipient after Iraq and Afghanistan, and very few people outside of government and the extraordinary relief workers. And I know you have background in the Peace Corps, Chris. You know what these people do in the field. There are a thousand relief workers from forty different agencies in this one area trying to help these people.
MATTHEWS: I was impressed that they were so insolent as to treat you the way they did, to shove you around as they did and to throw you out of a room. But I was more impressed that they went after Wilkinson, who works for the State Department, who’s right under the Secretary of State. Did that amaze you, that they were willing to push him around the way they did?
MITCHELL: Yeah, and they didn’t even let some of the other officials in. But to push Wilkinson around and to be as rude as they were, and as physical as they were, was crazy. These people want diplomatic relations to be restored. They lost diplomatic relations back in 1997 after harboring Osama bin-Laden. They’ve been on the terror list for years. And they want help from us, and at the same time they’re asking us to restore relations and lift sanctions so that they can start buying American spare parts that they need, they slam Jim Wilkinson against the wall. Go figure. It’s – his words were, this is not exactly Diplomacy 101.
MATTHEWS: Tough question, was the President of Sudan, who was your host at that press photo op, did he seem to be going along with the rough treatment being given to you and the Secretary of State’s assistant?
MITCHELL: In fact, I was told by some people who were watching the whole thing play out that he – that these guys were taking his orders. That he had signaled them to get rid of me.
MATTHEWS: Wonderful, thank you very much. Andrea Mitchell, who’s in Israel right now, reporting on the incidents the other day in Khartoum.