Tillerson holds briefing in Saudi Arabia without US press

Tillerson ducks media during Asia visit
Tillerson ducks media during Asia visit

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson briefed the media in Saudi Arabia on Sunday without members of the American press in attendance.

Tillerson held the press conference with the Saudi foreign minister, Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, but it appeared that only foreign reporters were present. Journalists from the United States were left scrambling to figure out what happened.

The State Department later apologized, adding that it couldn't notify the press in time.

State Department spokesman R.C. Hammond said there was "not enough time to alert or make arrangements for U.S. media to participate."

"Steps were immediately taken to ensure a transcript could be produced and distributed to reporters. Ideally, members of the U.S. press corps should have had the option to attend the press conference and ask questions," he said.

A White House official said Tillerson was invited to participate in the press conference at the last minute.

Related: Journalists outraged by Tillerson's plan to travel without press

Reporters later found a feed of the event that they used to transcribe Tillerson's remarks. The secretary spoke about President Trump's speech to the Muslim world on Sunday.

"I think the president clearly was extending a hand, and understanding that only together can we address this threat of terrorism that has befallen all of us," Tillerson said, according to the transcript.

Tillerson said on "Fox News Sunday" that the visit was meant to confront the threat of terrorism. He said that human rights would improve as security and stability in the region did.

In March, State Department reporters protested when Tillerson took only one reporter on his trip to Japan.

It was an unusual move -- past secretaries of state for both major political parties have traditionally traveled with a small group of reporters. News organizations pay for the cost of the reporters' travel.

--CNN's Noah Gray, Eli Watkins, Brian Stelter and Rob McLean contributed to this story.


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