Group renews charge White House scrubbed Hollande terror comment

The State Department’s admission that it deleted footage of a spokeswoman's comments on the Iran nuclear deal is raising concerns about the extent of such practices -- including renewed questions over how two words in the French president's remarks at a March summit got dropped from a White House video.

Francois Hollande, at that summit, made a reference to “Islamist terrorism” -- a term President Obama does not use. However, the translator's mention of this was dropped from the original White House video.

Officials at the time said the audio gap was the result of a "technical issue," not an attempt to scrub or censor Hollande’s comments, and that an updated video with the complete audio was posted on soon after the problem was recognized.

They also noted the official transcript posted on the White House website always included the dropped words.

The controversy then seemed to fade -- until the State Department last week acknowledged an unidentified official had intentionally deleted several minutes of footage from a 2013 briefing.

Citing that admission, the Media Research Center -- the conservative-leaning government watchdog group that first flagged the dropped audio from the March summit -- renewed its allegations about the Hollande remarks.

“This ‘technical error’ excuse is just as implausible as the [State Department] ‘glitch’ alibi,” MRCTV blog editor Craig Bannister said in a post.

Bannister argued that posting a full transcript of Hollande’s remarks soon after he made them would have been impossible without full video and audio recordings, including the French-English translation of his comments.

“Thus, the White House had the ‘complete audio’ video all along because it used it to create the official White House transcript,” Bannister said.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment Monday regarding how that audio was dropped.

In the more recent incident involving State Department footage, Fox News reporter James Rosen had asked then-agency spokeswoman Jen Psaki during a 2013 briefing about an official saying no direct, secret talks were underway between the U.S. and Iran – when, in fact, they were.

Psaki appeared to acknowledge misleading the press over the Iran nuclear deal, saying: “There are times where diplomacy needs privacy in order to progress. This is a good example of that.”

Fox News discovered the Psaki exchange was in the transcript but missing from the agency’s official website and its YouTube channel.

State Department spokesman John Kirby later said the video from the briefing -- including the comments on the Iran deal -- were removed in response to a “deliberate request.”

The department has yet to identify who ordered the deletion; one spokesman said their internal inquiry has hit a “dead end.”

“So, is the Rosen Recant simply the first domino to fall as more and more censored videos are uncovered and the Obama administration takes responsibility for them?” Bannister asked.

On Friday, ABC News also found the White House omitted part of the transcript from a May 9 press briefing in which a Fox News reporter asked about Iran.

The reporter, Kevin Corke, asked Press Secretary Josh Earnest whether he could definitively say no senior administration official ever lied publicly about any aspect of the Iran nuclear deal.

Earnest’s response of “no” was not included in the official White House transcript, though it was part of the official video.

The White House said the response was not included because it was inaudible.

On Monday, Earnest gave a nearly identical response and dismissed a question about a possible pattern by the administration of removing statements from official records, considering the recent State Department revelation.

“The situation you're citing is related to a transcript with two words,” he said. “You'd be hard pressed to make a link between the two.”

Still, top Republican lawmakers are demanding answers about whether the U.S. conducted secret negotiations with Iran, then failed to make them public when asked.

Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has asked the State Department’s inspector general to investigate the issue. The California Republican argues the video “tampering,” has potentially “undermined” U.S. foreign policy.

In addition, Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Commitee on Oversight and Government Reform, has asked the State Department for more information and Secretary of State John Kerry to provide documents identifying who scrubbed the 2013 video.

And House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., reportedly called for the administration to investigate who ordered the edit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.