Pompeo heckled by aggressive reporter after speech about ‘reclaiming America’s voice for freedom’

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In a visit Monday to Voice of America, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke to its international audience about reclaiming America’s voice for freedom and about the importance of VOA’s work given emerging threats to U.S. values

Yahoo News would bill Pompeo’s address as “a full-throated defense of the Trump administration’s presentation of its foreign policy and its support for democracy abroad.”

“Millions of men and women whose names we’ll never know listened to you, often at their own peril,” he told VOA broadcasters. “Their governments dealt only in lies, in propaganda. But VOA’s listeners wanted the truth, and that’s what you gave them.”

Pompeo explained that VOA’s mandate “is unambiguous,” to be “accurate, objective, and comprehensive,” and to “represent America.”

 

“It is not fake news for you to broadcast that this is the greatest nation in the history of the world and the greatest nation that civilization has ever known,” he said. “Indeed, I’m not saying this to ignore our faults. Indeed, just the opposite; it is to acknowledge them.”

“But this isn’t the vice of America, focusing on everything that’s wrong with our great nation,” Pompeo continued. “It’s the voice of America — it certainly isn’t the place to give authoritarian regimes in Beijing or Tehran a platform. Your mission is to promote democracy, freedom, and American values all across the world.”

He said this is what sets VOA apart from MSNBC and Fox News and others.

“You can give voice to the voiceless in dark corners of the world,” Pompeo said. “You are the voice of America striving. You are the voice of American exceptionalism. You are indeed the tip of freedom’s spear.”

Saying security protocols were allowed to lapse after the Cold War, Pompeo said VOA “lost its commitment to its founding mission.”

“Its broadcasts had become less about telling the truth about America, and too often about demeaning America,” he added.

Noting that some VOA employees didn’t want him to speak, Pompeo addressed the evils of censorship running rampant in America today.

“They didn’t want the voice of American diplomacy to be broadcast on the Voice of America. Think about that for just a moment,” he said.

“But this kind of censorial instinct is dangerous. It’s morally wrong,” Pompeo said. “Indeed, it’s against your statutory mandate here at VOA. Censorship, wokeness, political correctness, it all points in one direction – authoritarianism, cloaked as moral righteousness.

Referencing Big Tech’s heavy-handed actions following last week’s protest at the U.S. Capitol that got out of hand, the Trump official this isn’t who we are as Americans.

“It’s similar to what we’re seeing at Twitter, and Facebook, and Apple, and on too many university campuses today,” he said. “It’s not who we are.  It’s not who we are as Americans, and it’s not what Voice of America should be.

“It’s time that we simply put woke-ism to sleep,” Pompeo charged. “And you can lead the way. You all know, that’s why you came here. There is a new dawn here at Voice of America.”

In a controversial moment after Pompeo’s speech, VOA White House reporter Patsy Widakuswara rabidly fired several politically motivated questions at the secretary as he left the facility.

“Mr. Secretary, what are you doing to repair the U.S. reputation around the world,” she yelled, adding. “Mr. Secretary, do you regret saying there will be a second Trump administration?”

Widakuswara, who would be reassigned after the stunt, touted her actions online.

After Pompeo left, Widakuswara then badgered VOA’s new director, Robert R. Reilly.

“Mr. Director, why did you not ask any of the questions that we wanted to know about?” she asked, according to NPR.

“You obviously don’t know how to behave,” Reilly reportedly told her after asking the reporter who she was.

He also said she wasn’t “authorized” to be there to ask questions.

“I know, but I am a journalist and I am paid to ask questions,” Widakuswara replied.

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Tom Tillison

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