The White House is in full damage control mode after deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes told the New York Times magazine that he used the media and “beltway insiders” to create an “echo chamber” to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the public.
On Friday White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the White House didn’t purposely mislead the public, and that reports to the contrary are just “sour grapes” from opponents of the Iran deal:
“I haven’t seen anybody produce any evidence that that’s the case. I recognize there might be some people who are disappointed that they did not succeed in killing the Iran deal and maybe these unfounded claims are the result of sour grapes. The truth is, the administration, under the direction of the President, engaged in an aggressive campaign to make a strong case to the American people that the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon enhanced the national security of the United States.”
That “aggressive campaign” apparently included taking advantage of what Rhodes said was an inexperienced press corps:
“All these newspapers used to have foreign bureaus. Now they don’t. They call us to explain to them what’s happening in Moscow and Cairo. Most of the outlets are reporting on world events from Washington. The average reporter we talk to is 27 years old, and their only reporting experience consists of being around political campaigns. That’s a sea change. They literally know nothing.”
Earnest was still in denial mode during Monday’s White House press briefing as he defended Rhodes:
“I recognize that there is an attempt by those who either lied or got it wrong to re-litigate this fight. But time and time again, the critics of the deal have been wrong. I think that is an indication that our attempts to protect the agreement were rooted in fact. And that’s what Ben wanted to reiterate in his piece.”
All of Earnest’s defense of the White House’s tactics seemingly came undone when he had the following exchange with Fox News White House correspondent Kevin Corke:
Corke: Can you state categorically that no senior official in this administration has ever lied publicly about any aspect of the Iran nuclear deal?
Earnest: No, Kevin.
Photo by U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia