Last year, the Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro, who seems very cool and smart, was slated to receive the State Department’s International Women of Courage Award for her coverage of Russian troll farms. But then, as Foreign Policy first reported at the time, the State Department then took the award back after officials very belatedly found social media posts she had made that were critical of Donald Trump. Naturally, they then covered their asses by proclaiming that Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she was to receive the award. As a department spokesperson told reporters, “This was an error. This was a mistake.”
But now, even the State Department’s own internal watchdog has verified the news reports that Aro’s award was rescinded because she was too critical of Trump.
Via the Washington Post, emphasis my own:
After she was informed of her selection and offered flight options, State Department interns discovered her Facebook and Twitter posts, including one from September 2018 in which she noted that “Trump constantly labels journalists as ‘enemy’ and ‘fake news,’” said the report. In another tweet she noted that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin would meet in Helsinki where “Finnish people can protest them both. Sweet.”
According to meeting notes obtained by the IG, senior U.S. officials argued that Aro’s invitation should be withdrawn, including the acting director of the Office of Global Women’s Issues. The director’s concerns included the possibility that the “media could highlight the tweets and Facebook posts during the ceremony,” which could cause “potential embarrassment to the Department, particularly given the involvement of the Secretary and the First Lady [Melania Trump].”
According to the OIG’s report, officials were alarmed once the group of interns (!!!) found her tweets, with one official writing, “I am very concerned over her retweets that may cause blowback. She is not suitable.” Another wrote back, “Yikes. These are out of place.”
Here are some of the social media posts that so worried State Department officials, compiled by Aro herself after her award was taken back:
I guess it would have been awkward for Aro to be up on stage with Melania and Secretary Pompeo, given her thoughts about the man whose ass they constantly blow hot air up. But while it would have perhaps been a minor embarrassment, it’s easy to assume that part of the reason they were so concerned is because Trump, a big weenie who can’t handle criticism of any sort, but especially from a woman, would have been very upset.
As for Aro, here’s what she told the Washington Post after the OIG’s report came out: “I feel like an international woman of courage. That, the Trump administration can’t take away from me.”