CREW sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the U.S. Department of State requesting records of all communications from the Office of International Religious Freedom from or to staff of the right-wing news and opinion website Breitbart.com, or mentioning British citizen Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, called “Tommy Robinson.”
Reuters recently reported that Sam Brownback, the United States’ Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, complained to British Ambassador to the United States Sir Kim Darroch about the U.K.’s treatment of British far right activist Tommy Robinson. Robinson has organized violent demonstrations against Muslim immigrants, been convicted of multiple crimes, and was arrested in May for violating English law around publicity during criminal trials. Brownback reportedly informed the British ambassador that the Trump administration might criticize the U.K. if Robinson was not treated more sympathetically.
According to Reuters, Ambassador Brownback’s advocacy on Robinson’s behalf followed “multiple direct contacts” on the topic between his office and people associated with Breitbart.com, which has protested Robinson’s imprisonment. Brownback’s spokesperson called these characterizations “completely false.”
The requested records would clarify whether Reuters’ report of Ambassador Brownback’s actions is true. If Reuters’ allegations are accurate then the requested records could reveal why a U.S. Ambassador advocated in favor of a foreign far-right activist whose supporters have been associated with anti-immigrant violence and Nazi imagery. It is in the American public’s interest to know what kind of reasoning informs our country’s representation abroad.