The State Department announced a Monday conference call with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that was restricted to “faith-based media” to discuss international religious freedom ahead of his trip this week to the Mideast.
The “faith-based” restriction was first reported on Twitter by CNN senior diplomatic correspondent Michelle Kosinski. Word got out when one unidentified member of the “regular” media was accidentally invited — then disinvited.
The New York Post reported that it was informed by the State Department: “This is not an open press event. We are sorry about any confusion.”
The SecState himself will do a call today on religious freedom, ahead of his Middle East trip. He will also take questions. This is rare. But this is indeed only for "faith based media." One reporter from a regular ol' outlet was accidentally invited... then DISinvited.— Michelle Kosinski (@MichLKosinski) March 18, 2019
When HuffPost asked about the call, a State Department representative responded that such a situation is commonplace. The spokesperson would not confirm that the call actually took place, who may have attended and what was discussed.
“The Department regularly engages in a broad array of media activities. Some of those engagements .... are open to any interested domestic or international press,” the representative said in a statement to HuffPost. “Other engagements are more targeted or designed for topic, region, or audience-specific media. This has always been the case.”
Briefings are often targeted to journalists who cover certain subjects, but insisting that reporters be from “faith-based” media is a different situation. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell — who was barred from the call — said she could not recall another instance of “religion being a test for journalists.”
State dept defending @SecPompeo limiting briefing today to “faith based media” saying they regularly do targeted media and “other engagements are more targeted or designed for topic, region, or audience-specific media.” Can’t recall religion being a test before for journalists— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 19, 2019
We are trying to get answers -I’m with reporters on Pompeo plane in Kansas waiting to pick him up while he has been doing interviews and a speech before dying to Kuwait. We had no access to the call for “faith based reporters “— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 19, 2019
Whatever that means!
All journalists covering the secretary of state would be interested in a conference call with Pompeo about religious freedom before he jets to the Mideast, noted Kosinski, who wondered: “Why limit it?”
Unclear why the State Department thinks everyone wouldn't like to be on that call and care about religious freedom, and ask questions, and hear answers.... I mean why limit it....— Michelle Kosinski (@MichLKosinski) March 18, 2019
A number of people responding to the information on Twitter challenged the constitutionality of such an arrangement. Others wondered if Fox News, Al Jazeera and the Church of Satan would be on the call.
How is this not direct violation of 1st amendment?— Samuel Bush (@SuddenDoge) March 18, 2019
Is he giving talk as secState or as private citizen?@SecPompeo pls
Whatever happened to separation of church & state again? Did I miss something? Did the establishment clause get revoked? What’s going on here?— John Koetzner (@john_koetzner) March 18, 2019
Welcome to Christian Sharia Law— Go Deep, I'll Look for You (@MattSchultz13) March 18, 2019
Faith Based: The administration has faith that those “media” outlets will report just what the White House wants them to.— Jennifer (@SyberJennifer) March 18, 2019
What if you work as a reporter who covers faith and religion?— Todd Breasseale (@TBreassealeDHS) March 18, 2019
Seems like that would be someone worth including.
Though, given that this admin has been in campaign mode since '17, they may be strengthening ties w/ their base & hoping for their continued noncritical Trump coverage.
Pompeo is an evangelical Christian who believes in the “Rapture” — a time when righteous Christians will supposedly be taken into heaven in the apocalyptic end of times. He sees American battles in the Mideast as part of a greater war of good against evil.
“It is a never-ending struggle … until the Rapture,” Pompeo said in a 2015 speech at a Kansas megachurch. “Be part of it. Be in the fight.”
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.