After getting caught criticizing her department’s own talking points on the dropping of charges against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki brushed off the “hot mic” moment in an emailed statement to ABC News.
“It’s just the latest scientific evidence of global warming: now we have to worry about hot mics. But as Secretary Kerry reminded me, I’m in good company in this administration,” she quipped.
Psaki’s impromptu remark came Monday after a briefing in which she read a one-sentence reaction to an Egyptian court’s dropping all of Mubarak’s charges related to the murder of hundreds of protesters during the Arab spring.
“Generally, we continue to believe that upholding impartial standards of accountability will advance the political consensus on which Egypt’s long-term stability and economic growth depends, but beyond that I would refer you to the Egyptian government for any further comment,” she said.
Reporters in the room expressed confusion about what it meant, and incredulity that the United States could react to the reversal in the strongman’s sentencing with such a lukewarm response.
As the briefing ended, the lights in the room dimmed and Psaki turned from the podium, she could be heard telling a reporter in the room, “That Egypt line is ridiculous.”
Psaki’s apparent frustration with what she was able to say publicly reflects the complicated relationship between the United States and Egypt, which has been considered a key partner in keeping peace with its neighbors since it signed a treaty with Israel in 1979.
During the protests against Mubarak, who took power in 1981, some criticized the United States for not being more vocal in support of Mubarak’s ouster and the demonstrators in Tahrir Square, although President Obama’s team did reportedly encourage Mubarak in private to step aside, which he ultimately did.
Most recently the United States in April relaxed a partial suspension of aid imposed after Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was usurped by the military, in order to deliver Apache attack helicopters intended help the Egyptian government counter extremists in the region.
Secretary of State John Kerry noted at the time that he had not been able to certify key aspects of the conditions that Egypt was supposed to meet in order to have the suspension fully lifted, and had called the Egyptian foreign minister to “urge Egypt to follow through on its commitment to transition to democracy - including by conducting free, fair, and transparent elections," Psaki said at the time.