Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) called on the State Department on Thursday to identify the official who ordered part of a recording of a 2013 press briefing about the Iran nuclear deal to be deleted.
“This whole outrageous episode demonstrates how the Iran deal has been sold to Americans through a parade of misleading ‘narratives,’ echo chambers, and outright falsehoods,” Cotton said in a statement. “The Administration must start dealing in the truth. One place to start is to identify the official who ordered the manipulation of the video and impose appropriate discipline.”
The State Department on Wednesday admitted that someone within the department’s public affairs office asked an editor to delete a portion of the Dec. 2, 2013, video. The department had previously blamed the missing footage on a “glitch.”
State Department press secretary John Kirby told Fox News on Thursday, “We just don’t know who made the request or why,” but he did not rule out looking further into who did it.
The deleted portion included a question from Fox News reporter James Rosen to then-State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki over whether her predecessor lied in 2013 when she said bilateral talks with Iran had not yet begun.
Psaki would not confirm that any bilateral meetings happened before March 2013.
Rosen then if State Department policy required officials to lie in order to preserve the secrecy of negotiations.
“James, I think there are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This a good example of that,” she responded.
U.S. officials have since acknowledged that negotiations with Iran were happening at least as early as 2012.
“The most meaningful part of the negotiations with Iran had begun in mid-2012,” The New York Times Magazine reported after an interview with Ben Rhodes, top White House communications adviser on national security.
The magazine also reported that the Obama administration took advantage of moderates’ victory in the 2013 Iranian presidential election to help shape a narrative around the deal.
Critics say the deletion of Psaki’s comments is an attempt to scrub the record of an admission that the administration lied about when negotiations started.
“The State Department has peddled three untruths to the American people: the false story that Iran deal talks were sparked by the election of moderates in Iran who actually never existed, the deletion of video footage showing the Department’s admission of that falsehood, and the now discredited claim that the deletion of the footage was merely ‘a glitch’ rather than an intentional manipulation,” Cotton said.
Psaki, who is now White House communications director, and then-deputy State Department press secretary Marie Harf have both said they did not order the video to be edited.
The original recording has been restored on the State Department’s website and YouTube channel, Kirby said.