The Associated Press’ Matt Lee took State Department Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell to task Monday over the agency’s habit of giving vague and meaningless accounts of meetings between top foreign officials by State Department officials.
“Will you be able to offer us some details of what they talked about once the meeting is over?” Lee asked in reference to a meeting scheduled for later that day between the Secretary and Joint Special Representative Brahimi.
The scheduled meeting called for a discussion on “the conflict in Syria.”
“We’ll certainly endeavor to do so. Certainly, the topics are Syria, so – but we’ll endeavor to see what we can do about a readout,” Ventrell responded.
“That – well, that’s – the topic is Syria.”
“Yeah. Well, I was hoping for something a little bit more exact.”
“I know you are, Matt.”
“If you can drill down a little bit on the granularity. Maybe like: Assad future, situation on the ground – and I’m not trying to be facetious.”
“No, I know you’re not, Matt.”
“But I would prefer that it not be, ‘The Secretary and Mr. Brahimi met and spoke about issues of mutual concern.’”
“All right. We’ll endeavor to –”
“Because, frankly, I read enough of the New Light of Myanmar many years ago, and we don’t need those kinds of readouts anymore. So I’d also make the same plea for the Arab League meeting.”
“Okay. Let me clear, though –”
“If we could actually get some remnant of scrap of substance in what the readout –
“Let me be clear here, though, Matt. The purpose is to encourage him to continue in his good work, and so that’s really the message that Secretary wants.”
Well, Lee may not have gotten exactly what he was looking for, but you can’t say he didn’t try [at the 08:24 mark]:
If you’re surprised by Lee’s tone, you shouldn’t be. After all, this is not the first time that he has tried to wring an answer out of a State Department official.
For example, you may recall in November when Lee grilled State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland over the Obama administration’s silence on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan referring to Israel as “a terrorist state.”
Asking tough questions appears to be his M.O.
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Featured image screen grab. This post has been updated.