Mark Toner, the deputy spokesman for the US State Department, literally burst out laughing at the idea of transparency and democracy during an official press briefing on Thursday.
“Welcome to the State Department,” began Toner. “I think we have some interns in the back. Welcome.
“Good to see you in this exercise in transparency and democracy,” said the spokesperson, before he and the whole room erupted into a fit of laughter.
“Is that what it is?” asked one reporter. “I thought it was an exercise in spin and obfuscation.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to break out in laughter,” added Toner after he eventually regained his composure.
Later in the briefing, Toner deflected questions about the recently reported transfer of $400 million from the US government to Iran on the same day in January this year that four Americans were released from Tehran.
“[The] bottom line is that we generally make a practice of not commenting publicly on the details of these kinds of transactions such as settlement payments,” Toner responded. “We don’t normally even identify the parties involved, and that’s just due to the confidential nature of these transactions.”
The spokesperson refused to confirm any of the reported details surrounding the alleged transaction, prompting one reporter to quip, “Well, let me just make the point that that doesn’t seem very transparent.”
“And your point is well taken,” replied Toner.