Former secretary of state weighs in on Rex Tillerson’s aversion to the press

Former Secretary of State George Shultz is at a loss trying to explain Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s decision to not bring any of the State Department press corps with him on a recent trip to Asia.

“I don’t understand, exactly. He must have had some good reason for that,” Shultz told Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson in an interview this week that will air on Sunday.

When Tillerson departed earlier this month for a trip to Japan, South Korea, and China, he did so without the State Department press corps in tow. Instead, he invited a lone reporter from a conservative outlet who did not cover the department full-time, Erin McPike of Independent Journal Review, to accompany him on the trip – a break with recent precedent that drew an immediate outcry from the press.

Beyond any ruffled feathers in the media, though, some analysts argued that the move was a strategic mistake that provided foreign press outlets an uncontested opportunity to shape coverage of Tillerson’s trip. Shultz seemed to underscore this argument, recalling a piece of advice he received from a press aide when he was secretary of labor.

“You don’t realize, the reporters who cover your department present you to the world. That’s the way people know what you’re doing and what you’re thinking,” the aide said, according to Shultz. “So maybe they’re on your side, maybe they’re not, but at least try to help them get the facts straight.”

“It was a big lesson for me,” Shultz said. “The press…they have their opinions, but basically they are the way that your point of view gets across to the American people.”

For more of our interview with Shultz, tune into Face the Nation on Sunday. Check your local listings for airtimes.