US ‘ridiculous’ line on Egypt? Jen Psaki caught on hot mic
US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has been caught on a hot mic calling one of her prepared statements about the acquittal of Egypt’s ex-leader Hosni Mubarak “ridiculous.”
During a press briefing on Monday, AP journalist Matt Lee asked Psaki to comment on an Egyptian court’s decision to acquit former President Hosni Mubarak of murder.
The State Department spokesperson attempted to dodge the question with a convoluted platitude.
“Generally, we continue to believe that upholding impartial standards of accountability will advance the political consensus on which Egypt’s long-term stability and economic growth depends,” she said on camera.
Reporters, including Lee, did not find that satisfying, but Psaki evaded their questions, saying she would not comment further.
“What does that mean?” a flummoxed voice can be heard asking.
“Wow. I don’t understand that at all,” the bemused Lee pushes. “What you said says nothing. It’s like saying ‘We support the right of people to breathe.’ That’s great, but if you can’t breathe.”
As the conference comes to an end and the lights dim, Psaki — seemingly unaware that her microphone is still on — suddenly goes off script.
“That Egypt line is ridiculous,” she can be heard saying, as Lee guffaws.
— Matt Lee (@APDiploWriter) December 1, 2014
CNC reports that Lee also grilled State Department spokesperson Marie Harf on US reaction to the Mubarak trial the next day. Harf reportedly stuck to her talking points and refused to comment on the issue. When Matt Lee expressed frustration, she commiserated—kind of—saying, “I share your pain.”
The US, which supplies Egypt with over one billion dollars in aid annually, has largely steered clear of criticizing Egyptian policy. Mubarak’s acquittal last month prompted hundreds of demonstrators to take to Tahrir Square, the site of the 2011 revolution that led to his ousting. Mubarak had been charged with the killing of 239 protesters during the uprising against him.