The U.S. State Department is defending its purchase of $79,000 worth of President Obama's best-selling books, telling reporters on Wednesday that it's not an unusual practice to provide books to distribute in diplomats' host countries.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland added that the missions abroad, not Washington, decide which tomes to carry in their libraries or distribute as gifts to locals.
"It's the embassies themselves that make the decisions what American books to buy, and they make these decisions based on the interest in the country where they are," Nuland told reporters.
"These are not decisions that are made in Washington, and they are not decisions that are directed by Washington."
Obama wrote in his 1995 book "Dreams from My Father" that when he was nine years old he spent some time at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia, and was bored by the reading material, which included World Bank reports, surveys and magazines. The Embassy in Indonesia now has about $4,800 worth of his books. Versions of the book in Turkish, French, South Korean and Arabic are also available.
A senior State Department official told Fox News that books distributed by embassies have been used to engage audiences on U.S. foreign policy and its political system for decades
"Every embassy has a budget to buy books on US history, culture, politics for their own libraries and to give to host-country libraries and contacts," the official said.
President Bill's Clinton's book "My Life" and President George W. Bush's book "Decision Points" are also part of some embassy library collections.
Although the 1995 book "Dreams from My Father" is a bestseller that sold briskly when Obama's popularity grew during his first run for president, the department's decision to buy copies is catching the eye of government spending watchdogs.
“At some point, he's going to write one after his presidency and I think that would be very appropriate, If they are going to maintain the libraries at all,” Leslie Paige, a spokeswoman for
Citizens Against Government Waste, told Fox News. “We need to look at whether that's worth doing in the fiscal climate we are in
The Washington Times reported first reported the purchase on Tuesday, noting that the president may have pocketed several thousand dollars from the sale. In 2010, Obama reported royalties worth between $1 million to $5 million for "Dreams from My Father," and between $100,001 and $1 million for the "The Audacity of Hope."
Obama has written three books -- "Dreams from My Father," "The Audacity of Hope" and "Letters to My Daughters" -- which are now available as embassy gifts.