The foundation named after slain journalist James Foley said it rescinded an award for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo because of the Trump administration's refusal to hold the Saudi government accountable for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, refuting the right-wing narrative that the move was forced by the organization's "media sponsors."
"In addition to advocating for the safe return of American hostages abroad, the promotion of journalists' safety is a key pillar of our foundation and this award would have been in conflict with that key principle."
—James W. Foley Foundation
In a statement issued late Thursday, the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation said its January 11 decision to withdraw Pompeo's award has been "mischaracterized by some media outlets."
"While it is accurate that our foundation intended to present our hostage freedom award to Secretary Pompeo until that date," the foundation said, "we ultimately decided we could not present the award as planned due to the dramatic change in circumstances when the administration did not press for genuine accountability from the Saudi government for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi."
The foundation's statement came after conservative Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard claimed—citing anonymous sources—that the non-partisan organization's media partners "promised to boycott the event if Pompeo got the award."
Pompeo himself parroted the unsubstantiated narrative in an interview on "Fox & Friends" Friday morning.
"It sounds like some in the media, who are underwriting this event, sponsors for the event, said, 'If Pompeo's there, we won't be.'"
Fox's Ainsley Earhardt asks whether US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the victim of "bullying" when an organization withdrew an award they'd planned to give him. pic.twitter.com/6XKw6OEGvn
— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis) April 5, 2019
But Pompeo's claim was in direct conflict with the foundation's own words from the night before.
The organization made clear that giving Pompeo a "Freedom Award" following the Trump administration's handling of the Khashoggi murder would have contradicted its mission.
"In addition to advocating for the safe return of American hostages abroad," the foundation said, "the protection of free speech and promotion of journalists' safety is a key pillar of our foundation and this award would have been in conflict with that key principle."