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WH Spox Earnest: I am not surprised about Erdogan’s support for Trump against CNN reporter

Ilhan Tanir

White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest, on Thursday, stated that he is “not particularly surprised, given the treatment of journalists by the government in Turkey” when asked about Turkish President Erdogan’s supporting President-elect Trump in how he handled the CNN reporter’s questions on Wednesday.

Erdogan speaking to a group of headmen in the Presidential Complex on Thursday, 12 January 2017, said “Look, a mistake done against Trump during his press conference and Trump put that group’s (CNN) reporter or columnist in place.” Erdogan’s chose the word of “benzetmek” when describing Trump’s response to CNN’s Jim Acosta in his reference, which rough means “beating someone badly.”

Earnest, after telling reporters that he is not surprised by Erdogan’s reaction, added: “Turkey is a NATO ally, and the United States stands strongly with Turkey and works closely with Turkey to protect our mutual interests and also to protect the national security of Turkey. We continue to do that, and the American people and the world benefits from that close relationship.  At the same time, that close relationship has not prevented us from speaking out and expressing our deeps concerns about the treatment of independent journalists in Turkey, who too often are imprisoned or silenced. ”

Then Earnest reminded the incident occurred in Washington, DC last March during President Erdogan’s visit. His bodyguards manhandled reporters and protestors in front of Brookings Institution where he was scheduled to give a talk. Earnest said, “I recall that even when a senior Turkish official traveled to the United States, there was a physical altercation between that senior official’s security detail and Turkish journalists.  That obviously was not something that the United States was prepared to tolerate on our soil, and we spoke out against it and, as I recall, there were security officials from the United States that intervened.”

Earnest misremembers Brookings events

Earnest apparently misspoke or misremembered the events. Turkish security details not only confronted some of Turkish journalists but also a couple of American journalists and Brookings staff present there.

Erdogan was in the town for the Nuclear Summit. At the end of Summit, President Obama harshly criticized Turkish President for his treatment of journalist and freedoms in general while Erdogan was still in US, warned that Erdogan’s Turkey “headed down for a troubling path”.

At the time, White House did not say Obama’s harsh criticism against Erdogan was a reaction to his security details’ treatment of journalists in Washington, DC. On Thursday, Earnest’s remarks appeared to make a link between the two events.

None of American officials attended the Turkish Mosque that was opened by Turkish President and other senior Turkish officials in Maryland during that visit.

Earnest concluded his remarks on Thursday: “I noted earlier, the United States and our tradition in this country and in our politics of having a robust, vigorous exchange between those in positions of authority and independent media is important, and we believe that that strengthens our democracy.  And if you have confidence in the arguments that you’re making, then you should have confidence in your ability to go and make that case to the press.  And if you don’t, it may not just raise questions about your strategy for dealing with the media, it may raise questions about the confidence you have in the arguments that you have to defend.”

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