Donald Trump's Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has traveled abroad without any of the U.S. press traveling with him, which is a departure from the norm in American politics and press. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to explain that the press was not blocked from accessing Tillerson and his scheduled events, but rather only blocked from traveling in his company.
But when Rex Tillerson held a joint press conference while in Saudi Arabia with foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, according to a report by CNN, the American press were nowhere to be found, and there is a reason for that.
NEW: U.S. reporters apparently were not invited to Rex Tillerson's press conference today in Riyadh #TrumpinSaudi pic.twitter.com/nZbh1teM1lTo backtrack a little bit, Sean Spicer did say in his own press briefing that the American press would be allowed to travel along with Rex Tillerson after numerous requests to do so by various members of the media. But they could only fly commercially and not be in tow with Tillerson, but rather chasing after him from his various events abroad.
— AM Joy w/Joy Reid (@amjoyshow) May 21, 2017
So when it comes to covering Rex Tillerson's press conferences while in other countries, it appears that the press has not been blocked from these events, but they have not been notified of when they may take place.
When Rex Tillerson gave his press briefing, he only did so to the foreign press with no representatives of the U.S. media in attendance. Of course the State Department has tried to downplay the callous nature of this incident by releasing a statement that essentially says it was an accident, of sorts.
At joint press conference, Sec. of State Rex Tillerson says today is an "historic moment" in US-Saudi relations https://t.co/1CD3EssO9M pic.twitter.com/6w85HM6d6oR.C. Hammond, a spokesman for the State Department, simply stated that there was "not enough time to alert or make arrangements for U.S. media to participate." But Hammond did say that "steps were immediately taken to ensure a transcript could be produced and distributed to reporters. Ideally, members of the U.S. press corps should have had the option to attend the press conference and ask questions."
— ABC News (@ABC) May 20, 2017
Members of Donald Trump's opposition quickly saw the incident as just yet another attempt to squeeze out the media, who he accuses routinely of reporting "fake news" and has repeatedly called them "the dishonest press." It also appears that Rex Tillerson is towing the line with Donald Trump by using his own agenda to black out members of the press.
Even though the American press will be provided with transcripts of the Rex Tillerson press briefing, the real sustenance of the situation would have been when they had the opportunity to ask questions and essentially interrogate the Secretary of State by reporting it to the people. That is their essential job by being a member of the American media and the freedoms afforded to them by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson holds briefing in Saudi Arabia without members of the American press in attendance https://t.co/Tq1rp0rxFp pic.twitter.com/M29KMHVnQqThis situation just further exacerbates the embattled Trump administration and their lengthy list of scandals that have emerged over the past few weeks. Donald Trump has really backed himself in a corner by taking abrasive actions with the firing of FBI director James Comey and his subsequent meeting with the Russian ambassador, which he blocked the American press out of and allowed the Russian press to cover.
— CNN (@CNN) May 22, 2017
This also plays right into the hands of Donald Trump's opposition that have long accused the real estate mogul of collusion with Russia to hack the election and hand him a victory over the highly favored Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.
The reason why Rex Tillerson made the address without advance notice to the American press is unclear at this time. Although transcripts have been made available to the U.S. press, they have yet to fall under the heavy scrutiny necessary to see if there was a strategic reason for the incident that could in some way benefit Donald Trump.
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