Pompeo attacks media, monument protests in speech on human rights

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoTurkey's search for oil may spill over into conflict with Greece The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden, Harris's first day as running mates Watchdog: Trump's UK envoy made inappropriate remarks on religion, race, sex MORE on Thursday attacked the media as promoting Chinese propaganda and criticized the U.S.’s national reckoning on racism in remarks unveiling the State Department’s first report on the Commission on Unalienable Rights.

The commission, meant to establish a foundational text for how the U.S. defines human rights, has been criticized as creating a blueprint to ignore modern understandings of women's reproductive rights and protections for LGBTQ individuals.

Pompeo, in a speech at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, didn’t touch on these ideas but focused on the criticism of how Black Americans are treated in the U.S., following national protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

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“The commission never intended to time the report’s release to the current societal upheavals roiling our country,” he said. “Nevertheless, the report touches on this moment, and so will I, because today’s unrest directly ties to our ability to put our founding principles at the core of what we do.”

Pompeo said those who criticize America today fail to acknowledge it as “fundamentally good.”

The secretary blasted The New York Times in his speech, saying its journalism project detailing the history of African enslavement in the U.S., "The 1619 Project," “wants you to believe our country was founded for human bondage.”

He further equated the paper of record with the Chinese government, saying, “They want you to believe Marxist ideology that America is only the oppressors and the oppressed. The Chinese Communist Party must be gleeful when they see The New York Times spout their ideology.”

And in response to the removal of monuments and statues that critics say ignore America’s complicated history with racism and oppression, Pompeo decried the “rioters” as “desecrating monuments to those who fought for unalienable rights — from our founding to the present day.”

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Yet the secretary, who is considered a top pick for a 2024 Republican presidential ticket, said the nation’s founding “fell short of securing the rights of all,” condemning slavery and the expulsion of Indigenous people from their land. “Our foreign policy has not always comported with the idea of sovereignty embedded in the core of our founding," he added.

The publication of the report of the Commission on Unalienable Rights marks the secretary’s yearlong mission to re-establish what the administration sees as the United States's foundational understanding of human rights.

The 60-page report argues that today’s social and political debates should be informed by a basic definition of principles established by the U.S.'s 18th century founders and the United Nations 1948 Declaration on Human Rights.

It draws a distinction that “economic and social rights” are separate from “civil and political rights,” and that there is a “hierarchy of human rights.”

Critics have raised the alarm that such a report may erase, or fail to encourage, protection for women’s reproductive rights and LGBTQ individual rights, threatening them under a hierarchy of religious freedom.

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Amnesty International on Thursday called the reports publication “a dangerous political stunt.”

"The administration is seeking to create a hierarchy of rights, where it gets to decide which rights are ‘unalienable’ and which rights are what it calls in the report ‘divisive social and political controversies,' a category which predictably includes sexual and reproductive rights and LGBTI rights,” Tarah Demant, the director of the Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program at Amnesty International USA, said in a statement.

“Human rights are not a choose-your-own-adventure in which the U.S. government gets to pick a different ending because it doesn’t like a particular set of rights. This report, made through an illegitimate process, only further shows the contempt this administration has for human rights and its desire to excise certain rights,” Demant said.