Kerry: ‘Chickens---' remark 'disgraceful'

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Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryNew Hampshire parochialism, not whiteness, bedevils Democrats Lessons of the Kamala Harris campaign Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows to push for Paris climate goals | Senate confirms Brouillette to succeed Perry at Energy | EPA under attack from all sides over ethanol rule MORE is condemning remarks from an administration official who labeled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “chickenshit,” calling the comment “disgraceful” and “damaging.”

“It is disgraceful, unacceptable, damaging, and I think neither President Obama nor I — I’ve never heard that word around me in the White House or anywhere,” said Kerry during an appearance at The Atlantic’s Ideas Forum on Thursday.

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“I don’t know who these anonymous people are who keep getting quoted, but they make life much more difficult,” he added.

In a story published by The Atlantic, anonymous senior administration officials levied a series of criticisms against Netanyahu, who is known to have a chilly relationship with President Obama.

"The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” one official said, expanding on his "chickenshit" insult. "The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states," the official continued.

"The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts."

The comments from the unnamed senior official have roiled U.S.-Israeli relations and lawmakers from both parties were quick to criticize the insult.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested that the official should be fired, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said he was “shocked” by the remark.

Kerry’s comments Thursday represented the strongest condemnation to date of the remarks.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest called them “counterproductive” and “directly in opposition to the true view and policy of this administration” while speaking to reporters on Thursday. But officials suggested they were unlikely to try to identify the source of the remarks.

Kerry on Thursday said the administration is “very proud of what we’ve done to help Israel through a very difficult time.”

He noted President Obama’s support for Israeli defense measures, including the Iron Dome system. He also said he remained hopeful that his work toward a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would pay dividends.

“We still believe it is doable,” Kerry said. “It takes courage, it takes strength.”