VOA reporter demoted after asking Pompeo if he regrets saying Trump would have a second term
Voice of America’s (VOA) White House reporter has been reassigned after asking Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday if he regretted saying President Trump would begin a second term in January.
Pompeo ignored questions from VOA reporter Patsy Widakuswara after his speech criticizing the government-funded outlet’s reporting on the state of America. Widakuswara asked Pompeo about what he was doing to help fix the country’s reputation and if he regretted saying Trump would have a second term after the election was called for President-elect Joe Biden in November.
The nation’s top diplomat @SecPompeo ignoring my questions about what he is doing to restore US reputation and whether he regrets saying there will be a second Trump administration. pic.twitter.com/8pcP9lRQ5a
— Patsy Widakuswara (@pwidakuswara) January 11, 2021
Widakuswara was later taken off the White House beat by VOA Director Robert Reilly, The Washington Post reported.
The move sparked backlash among fellow journalists.
“VOA’s reassignment of Patsy Widakuswara for doing her job, asking questions, is an affront to the very ideals Secretary of State Pompeo discussed in his speech Monday,” said Zeke Miller, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, on behalf of the association’s board.
— WHCA (@whca) January 12, 2021
Miller said Widakuswara was supposed to be a member of Tuesday’s travel pool on Air Force One before she was reassigned.
In Pompeo’s first public speech since last week’s deadly attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, he touted American exceptionalism and said the VOA was “demeaning America.”
On Nov. 10, after the election was called by The Associated Press and all major news networks, Pompeo was asked whether the State Department was prepared to engage with Biden’s transition team.
“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Pompeo replied.
VOA employees filed a whistleblower complaint ahead of Pompeo’s speech on Monday, saying he would use it to “disseminate political propaganda in the waning days of the Trump administration.”
“I read that some VOA employees didn’t want me to speak here today. I’m sure it was only a handful,” Pompeo said in response to the whistleblower complaint.
The speech was broadcast on VOA’s 47 foreign language channels and video streams. Pompeo talked in front of just a few VOA employees due to COVID-19 restrictions.
This isn’t the first time the VOA and its parent organization, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, have come under public scrutiny. The appointment of Michael Pack to head the VOA parent organization sparked bipartisan criticism due to the conservative filmmaker’s decision to ignore a subpoena and decline to testify before Congress about controversies such as stopping the funding of the U.S. Open Technology Fund.
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