State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell (Victoria Nuland’s replacement) is having a rough go of things early on in his tenure. For example, when a State Department spokesman has to answer tough questions from AP Reporter Matt Lee – the lone reporter in those briefings that consistently does a good job – or Fox News, it’s standard fare.
However, when said spokesman says something so egregiously unbelievable that it even causes a CNN reporter to call him on it, Mr. Ventrell has a problem on his hands. In this case, that problem has to do with his claim that the State Department is unfamiliar with the transcripts of the Benghazi whistleblowers’ statements.
Another thing to watch for here, only because it’s becoming far more commonplace among spokesmen who are being asked about Benghazi. Whenever these guys are answering questions and have to look down to read their pre-written statements that don’t answer the question, you know that said spokesmen know they’re on a high wire and things are very precarious. One wrong word can mean political death.
It appears that Ventrell’s predecessor – Nuland – may have been involved in altering Susan Rice’s talking points, which only further underscores Ventrell’s interest in protecting the Department at all costs.
That a CNN reporter calls him on this is not insignificant; even Fox News reporter James Rosen made it a point to notify everyone in the room. A short time later, Ventrell made reference to the Accountability Review Board (ARB) and its ‘unfettered access’ to witnesses. Rosen then piped up and said, “Except Secretary Clinton.”
Ventrell’s reaction was priceless.
To illustrate the point about reading statements when taking heat, check this out from White House spokesman Jay Carney last week. His initial statement that ‘Benghazi happened a long time ago’, was immediately followed by his reading a statement that was irrelevant to the question.