Pavlich: State 'edit' is censorship

Pavlich: State 'edit' is censorship
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The State Department has been under fire in recent weeks for deliberately “editing” out an important exchange about the Iran nuclear deal between Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen and former spokeswoman Jen Psaki. As it should be. 

The dictionary definition of censorship is “the practice of officially examining books, movies, etc., and suppressing unacceptable parts.” Censorship in America should not be tolerated, especially when it comes from the government. 

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Every exchange between reporters and officials is important — that’s why every State press briefing is put into the archives. But this exchange in particular proved the Obama administration not only misled the American public about the deal, it lied about it. Adding insult to injury, it censored information surrounding it. 

First, there was denial when the department was confronted with the missing footage, which was found only after Rosen asked a producer to pull footage for a different story.

“There was a glitch in the State Department video. When Fox flagged it for us, we actually replaced it,” State spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau argued to reporters. “Genuinely, we think it was a glitch.” 

Then, after more pushing, there was admission of deliberate action, not a “glitch.” 

“This was a deliberate request. This was not a technical glitch, it was a deliberate request to excise video,” State spokesman John Kirby admitted, while doing his best to move the narrative forward without holding the person who made the call to excise the video accountable.

After the admission, Psaki, now White House communications director, finally chimed in, washing her hands of any wrongdoing. 

“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],” she tweeted, with a follow-up letter to Rosen berating him for raising the issue. 

According to spokesman Mark Toner, the State Department “investigated” the incident and almost immediately hit a dead end as to who made the call. 

“We believe we’ve carried out the necessary investigation. We have hit a dead end in terms of finding out more information,” Toner said, while admitting he knew the gender of the person who made the call but refusing to reveal that information. 

For Congress, that wasn’t good enough. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzHouse Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges MORE (R-Utah) sent a letter directly to Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryA lesson of the Trump, Tlaib, Omar, Netanyahu affair Trump's winning weapon: Time The Memo: O'Rourke looks to hit reset button MORE demanding a full investigation and all “documents sufficient to identify, by name and job title, the individual or individuals who made and received the request to deliberately delete the video footage,” in addition to “all documents and communications referring or relating to the deletion of video footage.” Chaffetz also requested information about requests that have been made to strip information from other press briefings and important exchanges with reporters.  

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is also involved, and Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) is accusing the State Department of “undermining its mission to communicate timely and accurate information with the goal of furthering U.S. foreign policy,” adding this case is of particular concern because it revolves around the nuclear agreement with Iran. He has asked the inspector general for an investigation. 

Finally, after accusations of a cover-up, claims of “hitting a dead end” and demands from Congress to investigate who made the phone call to a video editor to cut the tape from the public, YouTube version of the exchange, Kerry has called for an investigation. 

“I would like to find out exactly what happened and why,” the secretary told reporters earlier this month, adding that the censorship, which he called an edit, was “stupid and clumsy and inappropriate.”

Psaki argues the situation is being blown out of proportion because the “only” section of video that was edited was on the public, State Department YouTube page. She claims that because nothing ever changed on the official State Department website, everyone should calm down and move on. 

YouTube is the most popular video service in the world. It’s how Americans, and the rest of the world, overwhelmingly search for videos. Regular people looking for information don’t spend endless hours on the State Department website. Whoever made the phone call and demanded the eight-minute exchange be stripped from the record knew exactly what they were doing when they took it from YouTube, rather than the version buried on the department website. If people were going to see the video, YouTube was where it would be, and whoever made the call knew it.

What happened at the State Department wasn’t an edit; it was government censorship and a likely violation of the Federal Records Act. Spokesmen and other officials inside the department know who made the call, and they owe it to the American people to not only reveal who that person is but to hold them accountable for their actions. 

 

Pavlich is editor for Townhall.com and a Fox News contributor.