Home | News    Friday 22 July 2005

NBC’s Mitchell says she’s angry and embarrassed after Sudan incident

By DAVID BAUDER

NEW YORK, July 21, 2005 (AP) — Andrea Mitchell said she felt angry and humiliated after Sudanese bodyguards dragged her out of a room Thursday for questioning President Omar el-Bashir about his involvement in the country’s violence.

NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell, center, is escorted by Sudanese security guards after she and other reporters were forcibly ejected from the room where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting with Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir Thursday, July 21, 2005, in Khartoum, Sudan. (AP).

Large, gun-toting guards painfully wrenched the 5-foot-3 Mitchell’s arm behind her. She was freed after U.S. officials accompanying Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained.

Mitchell, NBC News’ diplomatic correspondent, was part of a press contingent following Rice on her visit to the war-torn African country.

Sudanese officials already didn’t want her there. Mitchell said she was shoved as she entered a room where Rice and el-Bashir were posing for pictures. Reporters were only allowed in at the State Department’s insistence, and were told not to ask questions.

Mitchell, in a telephone interview after leaving a Sudanese refugee camp and arriving in Israel, said that attitude emboldened her.

"It makes me even more determined when dictators and alleged war criminals are not held to account," she said. "If our government is going to establish a relationship and push for a new beginning as Sudan reforms itself, they have to live up to international standards. A free press is part of that process."

Although el-Bashir has denied government involvement, the U.S. and international organizations say his government has equipped militiamen to massacre villagers in the rural Darfur province.

"Can you tell us why the violence is continuing?" Mitchell asked, as a Sudanese official said "no, no, no, please."

"Can you tell us why the government is supporting the militias?" she asked.

After getting no reply from el-Bashir, she asked, "Why should Americans believe your promises?"

It was then that she was forcibly removed.

"It is our job to ask," she said later. "They can always say `no comment’ ... but to drag a reporter out just for asking is inexcusable behavior."

Afterward, Mitchell said she was "angry, embarrassed, humiliated" and upset that she had become part of an attention-getting incident. "Reporters don’t want to become part of the story," she said.

Rice demanded an apology from the Sudanese government for the incident and, an hour later, the government’s foreign minister called her on her airplane. Mitchell, the wife of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, said no one from Sudan has gotten in touch with her.

"I would rather see them live up to their promises," she said. "What they did to me is not important. They can’t control my life."