White House reporter reassigned after trying to question Mike Pompeo

Gustaf Kilander
Outgoing US Secretary of State, Miker Pompeo (AP) (AP)
Outgoing US Secretary of State, Miker Pompeo (AP) (AP)

Voice of America White House reporter Patsy Widakuswara was reassigned after she attempted to question Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after an event hosted by the news organisation.

A video posted on Twitter by Ms Widakuswara shows Mr Pompeo's staff blocking her from following the Secretary as he exits the building.

She was ordered to leave her White House beat by Voice of America Director Robert Reilly after she questioned Mr Pompeo after his remarks and Q and A session with Mr Reilly. Ms Widakuswara tweeted from inside the event that several employees of the state-funded network considered Mr Pompeo's speech to be "propaganda".

Ms Widakuswara registered her displeasure with the event before attempting to question Mr Pompeo on his way out the door.

Mr Pompeo spoke about American exceptionalism and criticised foreign governments such as China and Iran during the event. He answered questions from Mr Reilly, a conservative writer who previously led the government-funded news agency during the early days of the presidency of George W Bush. He was appointed to lead Voice of America again in December 2020.

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The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association Zeke Miller called the reassignment "an assault on the First Amendment" and that it was "an affront to the very ideals Secretary of State Pompeo discussed in his speech". Mr Miller also said that the move "harms the interests of all Americans who depend on the free press to learn about the actions of their government and gives comfort to efforts to restrict press freedom around the world".

Mr Reilly was appointed by Michael Pack who heads the parent-agency of Voice of America, the US Agency for Global Media. Mr Pack, appointed to the role in June 2020, already has a number of controversies under his belt, The Washington Post reported.

Mr Pompeo said during his speech to Voice of America employees: “It is not fake news for you to broadcast that this is the greatest nation in the history of the world and the greatest nation that civilization has ever known.” He did not make any mention of the violent storming of the Capitol.

He also criticised censorship abroad and slammed tech companies in the US who are trying to limit messages posted on their sites that incite violence. President Trump has so far been banned from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The social media platform Parler, liked by right-wing extremists for their lax rules and enforcement, was removed from Apple's app store, the Google Play equivalent and Amazon web services have stopped hosting the platform, making it difficult to access.

Mr Pompeo said the "censorial instinct is dangerous," adding “It’s morally wrong. And it’s against your mandate. Censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction, authoritarianism, cloaked as moral righteousness...It’s time that we simply put woke-ism to sleep”.

Voice of America journalists gathered at the event, which some had decried as a possible Covid-spreader, were not allowed to ask questions and Mr Reilly did not press Mr Pompeo on the violent overthrow of the US Capitol. The live stream went dark quickly as the event ended and reporters started shouting questions, according to The Washington Post.

In the video posted by Ms Widakuswara, she can be heard shouting “Mr Secretary what are you doing to repair the US reputation around the world? Mr Secretary, do you regret saying there will be a second Trump administration?”

As The Independent reported on November 10, Mr Pompeo said that there will be a "smooth transition to a second Trump administration," despite the fact that Mr Trump lost the election.

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