US State Department under fire for secrecy surrounding 'faith-based media' press conference

Chris Riotta

The US State Department has raised concerns among the American press after conducting a conference call exclusively with “faith based media” outlets.

Secretary of state Mike Pompeo reportedly participated in the Monday afternoon press call.

Reporters from networks across the country are typically provided the opportunity to listen to these State Department calls and ask questions about news developments and upcoming announcements.

Mr Pompeo’s call solely included outlets such as EWTN Global Catholic Television, which told CNN it was allowed to join the conference after requesting permission from the State Department. A reporter for the outlet said the call was for “faith-based media only”.

It remained unclear which networks were provided access to the call and whether those included represented a range of religious faiths.

The State Department reportedly did not reply when CNN asked to be included , and would not provide a list of the outlets who were included on the Monday conference.

The department also declined to provide a transcript — a standard practice for press calls.

Andrea Mitchell, the chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News, called out the department’s move in a tweet on Monday night.

“State dept will not provide transcript of @SecPompeo call with so-called ‘faith based media,’” the reporter tweeted. She added the department would “not say who took part of what criteria were for participating”.

She added: “Usually transcripts are provided for all on the record interviews.”

Former State Department spokesperson John Kirby told CNN “it is typical practice that any on the record interview in which a Cabinet official participates is transcribed and published at the earliest appropriate opportunity.

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