Each year, the State Department unveils its report on human rights conditions around the world. Typically, the Secretary of State would hold a press conference detailing the report’s findings and field questions from reporters. On the rare occasion that the Secretary could not personally attend the announcement, a senior official would deliver remarks and meet the press in their stead.
However, Secretary Rex Tillerson broke with long-standing tradition by skipping the event Friday and the department was largely silent on the matter. The only comments to come from the State Department regarding the report were given by an official via phone on the condition of anonymity.
The move is seen as contradictory to comments Tillerson made in his confirmation hearings, where he said he would “[stand] for universal human rights and [fight] for the dignity of every person.” However, Tillerson has shown that he prefers to avoid meeting with the press. He has not held a press conference since being confirmed.
Tillerson’s decision to skip the event drew the criticism of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Republican Senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter on Thursday night to express his frustration with Tillerson, “For 1st time in a long time @StateDept #humanrights report will not be presented by Secretary of State. I hope they reconsider,” tweeted Rubio.
The move comes as President Trump’s proposed budget dramatically cuts humanitarian aid programs, signaling that perhaps the administration does not value human rights as much as they say. The President has also expressed that he would favor the CIA bringing back “advanced interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding.