Only seat for press during Tillerson's Asia tour goes to conservative media.
The United States State Department admitted Wednesday that it gave the only seat for media on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's plane to a reporter from a…
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The United States State Department admitted Wednesday that it gave the only seat for media on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's plane to a reporter from a conservative media outlet during his tour of Asia, in order to spread "new, fresh perspectives" on US foreign policy.
The news comes after a week of complaints against the State Department by the mainstream US media, which have not been able to join Tillerson on his tour to Japan, South Korea and China, which began Wednesday, despite permanently covering the foreign ministry.
"In this specific trip and instance, it was decided to take - to make an outside-the-box, if I could put it that way, decision to bring somebody in who doesn't necessarily cover the State Department, a media outlet that doesn't - isn't steeped in foreign policy and give it a new, fresh perspective," State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said on Wednesday during the daily press briefing.
According to the media outlet that contracted her, the reporter in question is Erin McPike, a correspondent to the White House from the Independent Journal Review (IJR), a website founded by two former strategists of the Republican Party.
For almost half a century, US Secretaries of State have traveled abroad with a contingent of reporters to provide them with the coverage of their activities, since traveling with commercial flights to several countries may not fit the foreign minister's agenda.
Traditionally, the State Department offered about 15 seats to reporters permanently accredited to this department, and occasionally opened a seat to reporters from other media interested in a particular visit, provided that each one paid their own expenses.
Tillerson's arrival has changed those rules, at least initially, because only "one or two" reporters were able to accompany him on his previous trips to Germany and Mexico, according to Toner.
In early March, rumors began to circulate that Tillerson might not accept any journalist on his trip to Asia, prompting the heads of several media to send a protest letter to the State Department.
"Not only does this situation leave the public narrative of the meetings up to the Chinese foreign ministry as well as Korea's and Japan's, but it gives the American people no window whatsoever into the views and actions of the nation's leaders," reads the letter signed by media outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and CNN.
The State Department later suggested that it could include a reporter on the trip, and justified the decision on Tillerson's intention to travel on a "smaller plane," although he would eventually travel on a Boeing 737, according to Toner.