State Department Bans Press Corps From Pompeo Briefing; Allows ‘Faith-Based Media’ Only

State Department Bans Press Corps From Pompeo Briefing; Allows ‘Faith-Based Media’ Only March 19, 2019

Theocracy has its privilege: In an unprecedented move, the U.S. State Department barred the press corps from a Pompeo briefing, allowing only “faith-based media” to participate in a briefing concerning religious freedom.

The Hill reports:

The State Department allowed only “faith-based media” on a briefing call on international religious freedom held by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, and blocked reporters from other news outlets from joining…

Adding insult to injury, the State Department is refusing to release a transcript of the remarks concerning international religious freedom made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. CNN reports:

The State Department on Monday said it would not be distributing a transcript or list of attendees from a briefing call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held that evening — a call from which the department’s press corps was excluded and only “faith-based media” allowed.

Michelle Kosinski, CNN’s Senior Diplomatic Correspondent for the State Department, was the first to report on the alarming situation:

The State Dept is holding a special informational call today.  But the State Dept press corps wasn’t invited. Being told it’s for “faith-based media only”…

In an attempt at damage control a State Department spokeswoman tried to justify the unprecedented action, telling The New York Post:

This is not an open press event. We are sorry about any confusion. The Department regularly engages in a broad array of media activities. Some of those engagements — Department press briefings, teleconferences on a myriad of policy issues, briefings and sprays by the Secretary of State and other officials — are open to any interested domestic or international press.

Other engagements are more targeted or designed for topic, region, or audience-specific media. This has always been the case.

However, John Kirby, a former State Department spokesperson and CNN analyst, explains that the State Department’s “faith-based media” only briefing was “inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Kirby told CNN that “it is typical practice that any on the recorded interview in which a Cabinet official participates is transcribed and published at the earliest appropriate opportunity.” Kirby added:

These officials are public servants. What they say — in its entirety — is inherently of public interest. It’s inappropriate and irresponsible not to observe that obligation.

It’s perfectly fine to ensure faith-based media have a seat at such a table. But it’s PR malpractice to cut off access to the broader press corps. I wish I could say I expected more from this crowd.

Sounding the alarm, The Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a statement noting that the State Department’s actions were unconstitutional and a violation of the Establishment Clause as well as “the Freedom of the Press guarantee of the First Amendment.”  The following is an excerpt from that statement:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state/church watchdog, is calling attention to the troubling unconstitutional exclusion of nonreligious media from a State Department call today.

A member of the State Department press corps reported Monday that the State Department had limited a “special informational call” to “faith-based media,” excluding all members of secular media outlets. FFRF has promptly pointed out that such a prohibition violates both the Establishment Clause and the Freedom of the Press guarantee of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

FFRF has requested written assurances from the State Department that future media calls and events will not exclude nonreligious media or otherwise favor religion over nonreligion. FFRF has also filed a formal Freedom of Information Act request to obtain public records related to the event.

Bottom line:  In an unprecedented and unconstitutional move, the U.S. State Department barred the press corps from a  briefing concerning religious freedom given by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, allowing only “faith-based media” to participate in the event.

State Department Bans Press Corp From Pompeo Briefing; Allows ‘Faith-Based Media’ Only (Image via YouTube)
State Department Bans Press Corp From Pompeo Briefing; Allows ‘Faith-Based Media’ Only (Image via YouTube)
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