Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may have been marginalized within the administration of President Donald Trump, but he certainly seems to have adopted his boss' disdain for being accessible to the press.
During his first interview as secretary of state, Tillerson told the Independent Journal Review — a conservative media outlet and the only one permitted to join him during his recent trip to Asia — that he simply is not a "big media press access person."
As Tillerson explained, "We have a lot of work to do, and when we’re ready to talk about what we’re trying to do, I will be available to talk to people. But doing daily availability, I don’t have this appetite or hunger to be that, have a lot of things, have a lot of quotes in the paper or be more visible with the media."
The fact that the press corps is not traveling on the plane with me, I understand that there are two aspects of that. One, there’s a convenience aspect. I get it. The other is, I guess, what I’m told is that there’s this long tradition that the Secretary spends time on the plane with the press. I don’t know that I’ll do a lot of that. I’m just not … that’s not the way I tend to work. That’s not the way I tend to spend my time. I spend my time working on this airplane. The entire time we’re in the air, I’m working. Because there is a lot of work to do in the early stages. Maybe things will change and evolve in the future. But I hope people don’t misunderstand ... there’s nothing else behind it than those simple objectives.
Tillerson reasoned that "most major news outlets have presence in China," meaning they didn't need to travel with him.
Tillerson's decision to ditch the press bucks decades of tradition among secretaries of state. In response, Washington bureau chiefs from outlets — including The New York Times and CNN, The Wall Street Journal and even Fox News — wrote a public letter to Tillerson protesting his decision.
"We were deeply concerned to hear that Secretary Tillerson plans to travel to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo to hold key meetings about some of the most important foreign policy issues for the United States without any traveling press. 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," the letter reads. It was also signed by The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy, Agence France-Presse, Voice of America, NPR, the BBC and the wire services.