(CNSNews.com) – White House press secretary Josh Earnest twice on Monday did not give a direct, yes or no response to a reporter’s question about whether any senior administration official had ever lied publicly about the Iran nuclear deal.
Each time he chose instead to answer in what he called “the affirmative,” saying the administration had made a “truthful” case about the agreement – an agreement which he also predicted would be “an important part of this president’s legacy.”
Wall Street Journal reporter Byron Tau asked Earnest, “Can you categorically state that no senior administration official in this administration has ever lied publicly about any aspect of the Iran nuclear deal?”
“Let me just state in the affirmative,” he replied, “which is that the administration has made a forceful and fact-based, accurate, truthful case about how the American people and the international community benefit from an international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
Earnest went on to tell Tau it would be a “much more worthy endeavor” to examine the claims of critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action who he said had been proven wrong in their criticism.
“I think it's worthy of spending some time considering exactly whether or not those individuals were just misinformed or lying,” he said.
Tau tried again: “But you’re unwilling to categorically state that no public officials ever willfully misled on the Iran deal?”
“Byron, I can categorically say – ” Earnest began. “I’m going to say it in the affirmative. Unless you want – you want to present some evidence, or just make a claim?”
“No, I mean, just there was some confusion over this on the question,” Tau said.
“Okay. Well, let me say one more time, in the affirmative, declaratively, categorically, the administration made a strong, fact-based, truthful case about the benefits of the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Earnest said.
“What we said about the Iran deal and its benefits for the American people have come to pass. And that’s something that this administration is quite proud of, and I think it will be an important part of this president’s legacy.”
The question asked by Tau Monday had originally been asked by Fox News reporter Kevin Corke at a White House briefing on May 9: “Can you state categorically that no senior official in this administration has ever lied publicly about any aspect of the Iran nuclear deal?”
Tau prefaced his question to Earnest Monday by comparing the missing two words to the ongoing controversy over a State Department briefing video that was censored at the request of an official whose identity remains unknown.
In both cases, he noted, the comments related to the Iran nuclear deal.
Earnest took issue with the comparison, saying that in the White House case the words were omitted from the transcript as there had been some “cross-talk” in the briefing room at the time.