Trump administration plays favorites with faith-based media

The State Department barred members of traditional news outlets from covering a briefing with “faith-based media” on Monday.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held the telephone briefing with reporters from religious media groups, but the State Department denied requests from mainstream outlets for a transcript of the call or a list of who had been invited to attend.

In a statement to CNN, a State Department spokesman said the phone meeting differed from typical “briefings and sprays” in that it was tailored for “audience-specific media.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump at a Feb. 28 news conference in Hanoi, Vietnam. (Photo: Susan Walsh/AP)

The Religious News Service, which attended the briefing and published an article about it, provided the clearest detail on the guest list.

“While it was not clear which outlets were part of the call, questions were asked by Religion News Service, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Algemeiner, World Magazine and The Leaven, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. America Magazine also participated in the call. Participants were not told that the call was limited to faith-based media,” RNS’s Emily McFarlan Miller reported.

According to RNS’s account, Pompeo promised that “people of all faiths will have ‘something to say’ about the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan the White House is expected to announce after Israel’s elections in two weeks.”

Former State Department spokesman John Kirby blasted the decision to hold the private briefing and shut out secular media organizations.

Trump, who last week signed Bibles while visiting tornado victims in Alabama, continued to wage war against what he terms the “Fake News Media” on Tuesday, reviving his characterization of the free press as an enemy not only of his administration, but of the country as a whole.

A devout evangelical Christian, Pompeo departed for a trip to the Middle East hours after the conclusion of Monday’s phone briefing, and was accompanied by the Christian Broadcasting Network’s chief political analyst, David Brody, as well as members of the mainstream media.

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