AP Reporter Spars with State Dept, Ridicules Their Lack of Transparency

Reporter vows to ask the same question every day until State Dept answers

AP reporter Matt Lee and State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf sparred Wednesday over Harf's refusal to comment on efforts by Congress to rename the street in front of the Chinese embassy after a Chinese dissident.

When Harf declined to comment on it directly, Lee prodded, "It has a direct foreign policy element to it. It's certainly intended to send a message. Do you think that renaming streets in this kind of way, that are designed to be -- designed to be provocative in general, is a good idea?"

Harf replied that she had no comment, but added that that does not mean the State Department has no position.

"Oh, so you do have a position," Lee responded.

"I said it doesn't mean we don't, doesn't mean we do."

After this, Lee began to lose his temper and mock Harf as she interrupted him: "But it's a -- but it's a secret -- it's a secret position -- from the most transparent administration in history."

Harf and Lee went back and forth for several minutes. "This is more than just pending legislation," Lee insisted. " This is the renaming of a street that is intended to provoke and annoy a foreign government."

"I'm not going to have any comment on this pending legislation," Harf replied coolly.

Lee informed Harf, "I'm going to bring this up every day."

"I'm happy for you to waste everyone's time in doing that when you know the answer," Harf snapped.

"No, it's not a waste of time," said Lee, clearly exasperated. "It is intended to get EAP or someone at -- your congressional liaison people to -- me raising it every day to get a straight answer on what seems to be a pretty -- a pretty easy question."