AP Reporter Grills State Dept. Spokeswoman

Over treatment of Netanyahu vs. Iran's leader

As the White House continues its attacks on Israeli Premier Netanyahu for things he never said, the Administration seems to be ignoring the Supreme Leader of Iran's calls for "death to America." When Associated Press reporter Matt Lee challenged State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on the issue during Tuesday's press briefing, Psaki did all she could to avoid answering the question.

Lee: This has been raised before by other people, but I will ask it again now in this---the same context. When the Supreme Leader of Iran is continuing---in the middle of these negotiations is continuing to make statements like, “Death to America,” how is that not problematic for you?  How is that not something---why are you just willing to let it slide basically, and you are holding the Prime Minister of Israel to comments that he made and since changed?

Psaki: Well, Matt, I think we would hardly put the Supreme Leader and the leadership of Israel in the same category. Israel is a strategic partner, a security partner---

Lee: Are you saying the Iranians can be trusted but the Israelis can’t? Is that what you are saying?

Psaki: Let me finish! No. I am actually trying to say that our relationship with Israel is abiding, is strong, it’s a security relationship, it’s one we are committed to. Do we have a disagreement about some issues like how we should proceed with preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? Yes. Do we think it isn’t impossible to just forget what the Prime Minister said when it is conflicting with past precedent and past policy for some time? Yes. But obviously we’re continuing our discussions. The Secretary has been in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu; we remain committed to the relationship.  Remember we’re not evaluating our relationship with Israel; we are evaluating how to proceed as it relates to a two-state solution.

Lee: All of that is well and good, but the Supreme Leader of Iran represents a regime that took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held hundreds of American’s hostages for a long time, is what you say is a leading state sponsor of terrorism---

Psaki: And remains, and will be if there’s a deal.

Lee: Right, and you're willing to let his words slide but not that of a country of which you say you have a great security relationship.

Psaki: No, I would disagree with that.  I would say one, as a reminder even if there is a deal with Iran it doesn’t mean we let slide or forget whether it’s the comments, or more importantly the actions, state sponsorship of terrorism, their human rights record, the fact that they are holding American citizens, they continue to hold American citizens including a Washington Post reporter in their jails, these are issues we remain very concerned about, those concerns are not going to be soothed by a deal. But we also feel that preventing Iran from acquitting a nuclear weapon is in our interests, it is in the interests of the international community, that’s why we’re pursing it, it’s not a matter of trust. Our relationship with Israel is one that’s strong and abiding.