Fox News correspondent James Rosen reported Monday that the Obama administration campaigned extensively to deceive the media and the American people about key aspects of the Iran nuclear deal.
Appearing on Special Report with Bret Baier, Rosen explained how Ben Rhodes, the White House deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, led a public relations effort to spin a narrative about the Iran nuclear agreement that was contrary to facts.
The story has received widespread attention after a lengthy New York Times profile of Rhodes was published last week. Rhodes was quoted in the piece explaining how the administration spun the media and the broader public to sell the nuclear accord.
"Writer David Samuels quoted extensively from Ben Rhodes to portray [him] as uniquely powerful in shaping President Obama’s foreign policy, as contemptuous of the press and foreign policy establishment, and as downright deceptive in selling the Iran nuclear deal," Rosen said.
Rosen also reported for the first time that video from a State Department press briefing two years ago showing possible deception by the administration had been deleted for unknown reasons.
"Late today, we discovered that the State Department’s video of its December 2, 2013, press briefing, at which I confronted spokesperson Jen Psaki about the false statement made by her predecessor, Victoria Nuland … has itself, with the use of a white flash, been deleted from both the State Department’s official website and from its YouTube channel," Rosen reported.
"In that exchange, Psaki effectively admitted that the administration had lied to me because the diplomacy [between the United States and Iran] needed ‘privacy,’" Rosen added. "The State Department told me just moments ago it cannot explain this deletion and is working to restore the excised material."
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was defensive about accusations of deception on Monday, telling a reporter "there is no evidence that that ever occurred, and what I would encourage you and other critics of the deal to do is to look at the facts."
Rosen noted how the administration said negotiations with Iran began in 2013 because of the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who some in the West consider a pragmatic reformer. The administration argued that Rouhani's election presented a unique opportunity for compromise with the Islamic Republic—although intelligence officials told Samuels that there is not much difference between "reformers" and "hardliners" in Iran's government.
Despite the administration's claims, negotiations were in fact launched many months before Rouhani's election. Rhodes dismissed accusations that the administration misled the public about its dealings with Iran in an article on Medium: "The fact that there were discreet channels of communication established with Iran in 2012 is something that we confirmed publicly."
"But that’s not true," Rosen contended. "The talks were under way for eight months at the time of this exchange."
Rosen then played a clip of himself at the State Department press briefing on February 6, 2013 asking then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland if the administration was engaged in secret talks with the Iranians.
"With regard to the kind of thing you are talking about on a government to government level, no," Nuland replied at the time.
There have been reports that nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States started as early as 2011. Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in The Washington Quarterly in the fall of 2015 that nuclear talks actually started in Muscat, Oman in 2011. Then-Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) and Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi engaged in negotiations with the knowledge of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, according to Khalaji.
"We made a concerted effort to provide information about the deal, to push out facts," Rhodes wrote in his post on Medium.
"But Rhodes appears to have misled the public about the substance of the deal," Rosen said.
Rosen played a clip of Rhodes telling CNN in April 2015 that inspectors will have "anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access" to Iran’s nuclear facilities, immediately followed by another clip of Secretary of State John Kerry telling Congress, "I never uttered the words, anywhere, anytime, nor was it ever part of the discussion we had with the Iranians."
Under the final nuclear deal, inspectors are allowed extensive access to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, but not to certain suspicious sites like the Parchin military complex, where Iran was able to conduct inspections on its own.