Top Obama press adviser Jen Psaki lashed out at Fox News on Thursday after being pressed for clarification over her statements on press briefing footage that the State Department admitted had been deliberately deleted from a public archive.
The department acknowledged Wednesday that several minutes of video from the 2013 briefing – at which then-State Department spokeswoman Psaki appeared to acknowledge misleading the press over the Iran nuclear deal – had been intentionally cut. The order apparently came from an official in the public affairs office, but that individual has not been identified.
Psaki, who is now White House communications director, issued a statement late Wednesday saying it wasn’t her:
“I had no knowledge of nor would I have approved of any form of editing or cutting my briefing transcript on any subject while at the State Department. I believe deeply in providing the press as much information on important issues as possible.”
Fox News’ James Rosen, though, sent Psaki an email seeking clarification, noting that the issue was not edits to the “transcript” but the actual “video” of the briefing.
Psaki responded that her statement also “applies to the video” – but then went on to accuse Rosen of “vilifying” her without evidence.
The full email exchange is as follows:
Some have pointed to a certain aspect of your statement, highlighted below, as not removing yourself from consideration for having issued the order to edit the briefing video:
I had no knowledge of nor would I have approved of any form of editing or cutting my briefing transcript on any subject while at the State Department. I believe deeply in providing the press as much information on important issues as possible.
Of course, as Liz Trudeau and others have stressed, the briefing transcript remained unaltered the entire time. Do you want to issue a revised statement, asserting the same for the video, which was altered?
Forgive me if you have already put out something along these lines and I missed it.
My statement applies to the video which is considered a form of the transcript and every aspect of this.
I understand it is inconvenient for you that I have nothing to do with this given you have spent the last three weeks vilifying me on television without any evidence of my knowledge or involvement and without once reaching out and asking me, but I would encourage you to also ask the State Department if there is any evidence. A shred or any information at all that suggests I had any knowledge of this or any connection to this on any level. Hopefully you will find the time to spend on the range of global events happening in the world in between attacking my character.
Consider that on the record from me as well
Rosen said Thursday he has never assailed Psaki’s character, nor has he ever asserted or implied she was responsible for editing the footage.
Psaki isn't the only ex-spokeswoman denying involvement in the edits.
Former deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf also told Fox News in a statement Thursday that she “had no knowledge of nor would I have approved of this editing.”
“I have no idea who asked for the editing of the tape,” said Harf, now a senior adviser to Secretary of State John Kerry.
The denials leave a mystery over which official indeed had the footage cut from the 2013 briefing.
At that briefing, Psaki was asked by Rosen about an earlier claim from another official that no direct, secret talks were underway between the U.S. and Iran – when, in fact, they were.
Psaki at the time seemed to admit the discrepancy, saying: “There are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that.”
However, Fox News later discovered the Psaki exchange was missing from the department’s official website and its YouTube channel (though not from the transcript). Eight minutes from the briefing, including the comments on the Iran deal, were edited out and replaced with a white-flash effect.
While the department initially claimed this was the result of a glitch, officials looked into it and State Department spokesman John Kirby revealed Wednesday there was a “deliberate request” to cut the footage.
He said somebody in his public affairs office had a video editor “excise” part of that footage from the briefing in question.
Kirby told Fox News' “Fox & Friends” on Thursday he does not know who made the request, though he did not rule out pursuing the matter further if more information comes to light.
“There's no cover-up,” Kirby said.
Kirby also said Psaki, in the 2013 briefing, was not trying to say anybody at the department lied about the Iran deal. “We don’t lie,” he said.
Kirby also thanked Rosen for "bringing this to my attention, because if he didn’t a couple of weeks ago, I would never have known that this occurred. So first of all, kudos to him, he’s a journalist who I have a great respect for."
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and FoxNews.com's Judson Berger contributed to this report.