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.”
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.”
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?”
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.
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.”