Obama Administration Officials Walk Back 'Chickens***' Comment About Netanyahu

PHOTO: Left, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions during his daily briefing in Washington, DC; right, US Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki briefs reporters in the press briefing room. Win McNamee/Getty Images|Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
Left, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions during his daily briefing in Washington, DC; right, US Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki briefs reporters in the press briefing room at the Department of State in Washington, DC.

A day after an unnamed Obama administration official was quoted calling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “chickens**,” administration spokespeople said today that they were just as surprised as Netanyahu was to read the comment.

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters that the comment, published by Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic, was “counterproductive” and “inappropriate," and that he would be surprised if President Obama knew who said it to Goldberg.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Secretary of State John Kerry believed it wasn’t productive for either side to lob insults at the other.

“He certainly feels strongly that a war of words is not productive from either side. Obviously, we believe that moving forward it’s in the best interest of both sides to address any issues that may arise appropriately and respectfully, and not through personal attacks,” she said.

Psaki’s remarks were an allusion to comments from the Israelis in recent days criticizing Kerry for seemingly linking the rise of ISIS to Muslim frustration over the lack of progress between Israelis and Palestinians over peace talks.

Psaki added that while the administration would likely not spend time searching for the official who made the remark about Netanyahu, Kerry would tell the Prime Minister the next time they talk that it did not reflect the administration’s view of him.

President Obama’s national security adviser Susan Rice also sought to tamp down the idea that tensions are running high between the United States and the Israelis.

"The relationship is not in crisis. The relationship is actually fundamentally stronger in many respects than it’s ever been,” Rice said, speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum, also noting that she would be dining with her Israeli counterpart that evening, before they both convened a meeting of national security officials from their respective nations on Thursday.