State Department spokesman Ned Price got into a full-blown shouting match with Associated Press diplomatic reporter Matt Lee at a press briefing Thursday.
Price opened the briefing with a statement on the U.S. government’s allegation that Russia has planned to stage a false flag on video to use as a pretext for invading Ukraine. According to the State Department, Russia recruited crisis actors to stage a false explosion that would appear to destroy military equipment and locations, and Washington is publicizing the plan in an attempt to deter Russia from using it.
Neither the State Department nor the Pentagon released direct evidence of the plot, with officials claiming that doing so would compromise their sources and methods. Price said at his briefing that the actions showed Russia is not serious about engaging diplomatically to solve the Ukraine issue, but Lee pressed him on what those “actions” actually were.
“You made an allegation that they might do that. Have they actually done it?” Lee asked, demanding that Price clarify what actual actions Russia had taken, as opposed to just plans. “What activity?”
Price returned to the planning of the false flag video, but Lee cut him off to again point out the lack of evidence and the fact that an action hadn’t yet been taken. He then went on to accuse the State Department of going into “Alex Jones territory.”
“It’s an action that you say they have taken, but you have shown no evidence to confirm that,” he said. “This is like crisis actors, really, this is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into now. What evidence do you have to support the idea that there’s some propaganda film in the making?”
Price answered that there was “information known to the U.S. government,” but Lee again interrupted, asking, “Where is it?”
“You made a series of allegations … that’s not evidence, Ned, that’s you saying it. That’s not evidence.”
As Price implored the reporters to trust the U.S. government’s accounting of the evidence, Lee cited past examples in Iraq and Afghanistan when the government misled the media and the public.
“I remember WMDs in Iraq, I remember that Kabul was not gonna fall,” Lee asserted. (RELATED: Teachers, Accountants And Priests: Ukraine Training A Civilian Army To Fend Off Russian Invasion)
Price then seemingly accused Lee of trusting the Russian government over the U.S. government and its allies. White House press secretary Jen Psaki deployed the same tactic Thursday, accusing reporters who doubt the U.S. government’s account of a raid against an ISIS target Wednesday of believing “ISIS is providing accurate information.”
Aboard AF1, a reporter asked WH press secretary Jen Psaki for evidence to back up the claim that Qurayshi denotated a suicide bomb.
Psaki asked whether skeptics think the U.S. military is “not providing accurate information and ISIS is providing accurate information.” 2/x
— Felicia Sonmez (@feliciasonmez) February 3, 2022
“I’m sorry you’re doubting the information that’s in the possession of the U.S. government,” Price said.
“You just come out and say this and expect us to believe it, without you showing a shred of evidence that it’s actually true,” Lee later rebutted after more back-and-forth.
“If you doubt the credibility of the U.S. government, of the British government, of other governments and want to find solace in information that the Russians are putting out, that is for you to do,” Price said. He then went on to call on another reporter and ignore Lee’s further questioning.
Price and Lee have frequently gotten into heated spats in the past. Lee challenged Price on whether the Biden administration’s approach to seeking multilateral cooperation on Russia and Ukraine was actually fruitful Monday.