Secretary of State Rex Tillerson came under fire after he broke with precedent in a number of ways when the U.S. State Department released the annual report on human rights.
As Reuters reports, many criticized Tillerson for failing to give the report the “attention or fanfare” that it has been traditionally given. The Secretary of State also declined to release the report in person. This effectively breaks with precedent that had been established by both Democratic and Republican administrations. Instead, a senior official answered questions from the media by phone on condition of anonymity. This official stated, in response to a question about why the Secretary of State did not unveil it himself,
“The report speaks for itself. We’re very, very proud of it. The facts should really be the story here.”
The report, which is compiled by staff in U.S. embassies, documents human rights conditions in roughly 200 countries and territories and is mandated by Congress. The 2017 report was mostly completed while former President Barack Obama was still in office.
The Secretary of State traditionally unveils the human rights report with public comments in order to emphasize the focus on human rights in U.S. foreign policy, but also to showcase specific findings. Both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry gave public comments on the report during their first years in the position, 2013 and 2009, and continued to do so throughout their tenures as Secretary of State.
In his one month holding the position, Rex Tillerson has not held a press conference and has abstained from answering questions from various media outlets.