Monday, February 5, 2018

Reporters blocked from covering Rex Tillerson horseback ride in Argentina: Report

Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times; see also (1)

Image from article, with caption: ((Patagonia Passion)

The cameras were in place. The horses were saddled up.

But two minutes before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived at the Wesley ranch in the breathtaking Argentine Patagonia, reporters and photographers were abruptly hustled away and told they would not be allowed to document the diplomat on horseback.

Tillerson’s horse ride into the Nahuel Huapi national park had been seen as the highlight of his visit to this gorgeous piece of Argentina during a seven-day, five-nation diplomatic tour of Latin America. But you won’t see pictures of it.

Reporters, allowed to cover only Tillerson making small talk with Argentine park officials, were furious. Those traveling with him for the week paid large sums and are charged with providing coverage of the secretary of State for the press corps back in the United States.

Steven Goldstein, the State Department’s undersecretary for public diplomacy, said Tillerson, a Texas rancher and former CEO of Exxon Mobil, considered the horse ride to be a “private moment.”

Yet it was a moment that had been included in the official press schedule, and reporters were escorted to the stables by State Department personnel. The incident served as the latest indication that Tillerson, despite his job as the public face of American diplomacy, is uncomfortable around journalists and sees little need to interact with them — in contrast to his predecessors of both parties.

Goldstein said Tillerson paid out of his own pocket to rent Zorzal, a large white steed. “He wanted to ride a horse for 25 minutes on his own,” Goldstein added.

On his own, with a mounted posse of Secret Service agents in tow.

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