White House press secretary Josh Earnest could not explain Tuesday the omission of a potentially damaging line about the Iran nuclear deal from the official transcript of a White House press briefing last month, refusing to revisit the matter and rejecting the notion that there was any wrongdoing.
Fox News correspondent Kevin Corke asked Earnest on May 9 if he could "state categorically that no senior official in this administration has ever lied publicly about any aspect of the Iran nuclear deal."
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Earnest responded, "No, Kevin," followed by a brief, awkward silence before discussing the merits of the nuclear agreement.
The words "No, Kevin" never made it into the official White House transcript, however. The transcript immediately goes from Corke’s question into Earnest’s talking points about the Iran deal.
ABC News first reported this story and noted the White House’s official response is that the line was omitted because it was inaudible.
Fox News correspondent James Rosen followed up on this story during Tuesday’s press briefing, which led to a testy exchange.
"ABC News, Bloomberg News, [Rep.] Jason Chaffetz, many others, this reporter included, state categorically that the video shows, unmistakably, that you answered, ‘No, Kevin,’" Rosen said to Earnest. "And, in fact, Mr. Corke gave you a second chance during that briefing to answer that question because the answer was so striking he thought you misunderstood him."
Rosen then challenged Earnest’s claim that the line was omitted because it was inaudible.
"You said yesterday that there was a little crosstalk that made this exchange inaudible," Rosen began. "The very transcript of yesterday’s briefing is studded with the word ‘inaudible’ where it’s appropriate. Why did the May 9 transcript not contain the word ‘inaudible?’"
"James, I don’t write the transcripts," Earnest responded before launching into talking points about how the deal prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
"And the truth is, there are a lot of Republicans who oppose the deal who said a whole bunch of things about the Iran deal that were wrong," Earnest added. "And I don’t know if they were mistaken; I don’t know if they were naive; I don’t know if they were poorly briefed; I don’t know if they were lying. They were wrong."
"My question was limited to the matter of the transcript and why you’re asserting there was crosstalk that made something inaudible, the word inaudible didn’t appear in the appropriate place," Rosen said.
"I don’t know," Earnest replied.
Rosen kept pushing the press secretary, saying that he is maintaining he did not say "that which is plainly discernable that [he] said."
"James, I think what I’m saying is that there have now been three followups now to this question, and I’ve answered it quite directly exactly what our position is. So, if you’d like me to do it again, I can do it again," Earnest said, becoming noticeably irritated.
"I guess the final question is, are you willing to review that video one more time, Josh, with an eye toward possibly amending it as it should be amended?" Rosen asked.
"No," Earnest said before moving on to another reporter’s questions.
The issue over the omitted line comes weeks after a New York Times profile of senior Obama aide Ben Rhodes was published, in which he boasted about creating an "echo chamber" to deceive the media and American people to sell the Iran nuclear deal.
The story also comes just one week after the State Department admitted that it intentionally deleted a portion of a State Department press briefing from December 2013 showing the Obama administration possibly deceiving the media and public about the Iran nuclear deal.