Someone deliberately excised a critical Fox News question from archived State Department video

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Jen Psaki. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Erik Wemple at The Post has the details about an exchange between then-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki and Fox News correspondent James Rosen. An excerpt, though if you're interested in the subject, you should read the whole post:

In February 2013, Rosen posed a prescient question to then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland: Was the U.S. government engaged in "secret, bilateral" discussions with Iran? No, came the response from Nuland. By December of that year, rumors surfaced that such Iran-United States talks had indeed been ongoing. So Rosen, in a Dec. 2, 2013, session, asked then-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki about it:

QUESTION: Is it the policy of the State Department, where the preservation or the secrecy of secret negotiations is concerned, to lie in order to achieve that goal?

MS. PSAKI: James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that. Obviously, we have made clear and laid out a number of details in recent weeks about discussions and about a bilateral channel that fed into the P5+1 negotiations, and we've answered questions on it, we've confirmed details. We're happy to continue to do that, but clearly, this was an important component leading up to the agreement that was reached a week ago.

… [In May 2016,] Rosen asked a colleague to check for the video of Psaki answering his question about diplomatic mendacity. The colleague came back with an eerie response: The exchange was gone from the videotape, replaced by a flash of white light. The gap was evident not only on the State Department website, but also on its YouTube page….

Yesterday, Wemple reports, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs John Kirby said:

A portion of the State Department's December 2nd, 2013 press briefing was missing from the video that we posted on our YouTube account and on our website. That missing portion covered a series of questions about U.S negotiations with Iran. When alerted to this, I immediately directed the video to be restored in its entirety with a full and complete copy that exists and had existed since the day of the briefing on the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution system website otherwise known as DIVIDS. I also verified that the full transcript of the briefing which we also post on our website was intact and had been so since the date of the briefing. I asked the office of the legal advisor to look at this including a look at any rules that we had in place. In so doing, they learned that a specific request was made to excise that portion of the briefing. We do not know who made the request to edit the video or why it was made. To my surprise, the Bureau of Public Affairs did not have in place any rules governing this type of action therefore we are taking immediate steps to craft appropriate protocols on this issue as we believe that deliberately removing a portion of the video was not and is not in keeping with the State Department's commitment to transparency and public accountability.

Wemple adds: "Would the department do more investigating to determine precisely how this happened? No, said Kirby, who noted that the individual who received the phone request for video elimination doesn't remember 'anything other than that the caller was passing on the request from somewhere else in the bureau.' Furthermore, said Kirby, 'There were no rules in place to govern this sort of action, so while I believe it was an inappropriate step to take, I see little foundation for pressing forward with a formal investigation.' Spoken like a true bureaucrat."

Advertisement