Trump Administration Revoked Award for Female Journalist Who Criticized Him, Says Watchdog

The State Department said Jessikka Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she would be getting an International Women of Courage Award

The Trump administration revoked an International Women of Courage Award for Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro after she criticized the president, according to a new report from the Office of the Inspector General.

The report also says State Department officials gave a false explanation for why it rescinded the award.

The inspector general’s office obtained meeting notes that showed senior U.S. officials saying Aro’s invitation to the State Department’s International Women of Courage Awards should be withdrawn. The acting director of the Office of Global Women’s Issues noted that Aro had made social media posts criticizing Trump and the “media could highlight the tweets and Facebook posts during the ceremony.”

The reasoning was that if the posts were highlighted, it would embarrass the department, as well as first lady Melania Trump, who was involved with the awards.

The press highlighted the posts anyway: Foreign Policy reported last year that Aro’s award had been canceled due to her criticism.

A State Department spokesperson said in an email to Foreign Policy at the time that Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she would be getting the award, calling it a mistake caused by “a lack of coordination in communications with candidates and our embassies.”

The IG report found that Aro’s work on Russian propaganda had been selected, but, as Foreign Policy reported in 2019, she was booted from the list after her social media posts were discovered.

Aro told Foreign Policy that the withdrawal left her feeling “appalled and surprised.”

“The reality in which political decisions or presidential pettiness directs top U.S. diplomats’ choices over whose human rights work is mentioned in the public sphere and whose is not is a really scary reality,” she said at the time.