A spokesperson for the Department of State recently seemed to be really enjoying his job as called out Fox News correspondent Justin Fishel for asking an “asinine” question that suggested Secretary Hillary Clinton had faked her illness to avoid testifying about September attacks in Benghazi.
Officials revealed last month that Clinton’s testimony would be postponed after she became sick, fainted and suffered a concussion. Just two days later, Fishel showed up at a State Department press briefing and seemed to question the official story.
“Toria, can you expand on why Secretary Clinton can’t testify on Thursday about this?” the Fox News correspondent asked department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, according to a transcript. “It seems that she has not been available to testify on the Benghazi situation on some very key dates, including the Sunday after 9/11 and now this Thursday.”
“As we put out on Saturday, she is still under the weather,” Nuland calmly explained. “She was diagnosed as having suffered a concussion, and her doctors have urged her to stay home this week. So it’s on that basis that she’s asked for the committees’ understanding… But it was her intention to be there. If she had not been ill, she would be there.”
In an email obtained by The Washington Post and published on Wednesday, Clinton Senior Advisor Philippe Reines took a much snarkier tone with Fishel.
“We owe you an apology,” Reines wrote. “I’m almost embarrassed to even admit this – but somehow your question at today’s Daily Press Briefing was somehow completely mauled and transcribed in the release.”
“I just called them and read them the riot act for putting such misleading, accusatory, and absolutely asinine words in your mouth. Because after what we and her doctors explained over the weekend regarding her health, you couldn’t possibly have been insinuating the ulterior motives that question implies. No way. No credible journalist would do that without any basis whatsoever.”
Reines continued by pointing out that there was no way “an informed reporter” would compare testifying before Congress with appearing an Sunday morning talk shows as Fishel seemed to do by asking why Clinton had “not been available to testify” in an interview on Fox News on the Sunday after the attacks instead of United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
“I don’t know Chris Wallace all that well, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t place his television show on par with one of the three branches of our government,” Reines insisted. “And therefore, saying that this has happened on multiple ‘key dates’ is simply a blatant lie and grossly misleading to the public.”
“Anyway, our sincere apologies,” he concluded. “If you send us what you really said, I’ll make sure it’s properly reflected.”
Last year, Reines had taken a less-subtle approach with BuzzFeed correspondent Michael Hastings, telling him to “fuck off” and “have a good life.”
Watch this video from the State Department, broadcast Dec. 17, 2012.