Presidential @PressSec Josh Earnest is just doing his job. He’s reporting and responding to the media as he is told to do. Notwithstanding, it doesn’t take a professional lie detector to determine it appears he’s being less than forthright when he is denying suggestions that @POTUS was photographed holding a pack of cigarettes during the recent G-7 Summit.
I don’t really think the issue for most is whether or not POTUS was holding a pack of smokes. Talk to anyone who has ever tried to remain steadfast on a diet or who has quit smoking, often quit more than once. If he was out on the balcony for a cigarette it’s really not a big deal. But the pointless cover-up is what is making this an issue.
People get insulted when they’re lied to, and done so in a rather obvious fashion.
As a deception specialist it would be irresponsible of me to blatantly accuse Josh Earnest of lying. After all, I don’t have ground truth. However it does appear there are some rather obvious inconsistencies as it relates to truth and credibility in this word choice and body language.
If you’ve seen the video of the poignant interaction between White House correspondent April Ryan and Josh Earnest you may have a feeling you’re not getting the whole story. Below I’ve completed an analysis on the brief interaction so you can see the dissection of where it’s not the best response to put this issue to bed.
If you haven’t seen the video I have provided it for you below at the end of this content analysis.
Ryan: “There’s a lot of question about what this white thing is in his hand. Can you tell us — um..is the President, does he have a pack of cigarettes in his hand?”
Earnest: “He does not.”
Josh avoids saying the word “No” when asked if he has cigarettes. He also uses an emphatic “does not” when the majority of his speech includes contractions. Based on his baseline I’d expect a response from him of “No, he doesn’t have cigarettes.” And then more specifically, it’s reasonable to expect a response detailing what it is that is in his hands.
Ryan: “What was it?”
Earnest: “I don’t know, April, I wasn’t there, but …”
He is the Press Secretary charged with speaking for the White House. As much press as cigarettegate has received lately I’d reasonably expect that instead of a flat, “I don’t know, I wasn’t there” response he’d by now know what it was. And we already know he was not there – as evidenced by the photo of POTUS and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
Ryan: “I understand, but I mean, did he tell you what it was?”
Earnest: “No …ah, I… you may not be surprised to hear that I did not raise this issue with the President today.”
Awkward, uncomfortable shift in body language, slight nod of head then shake side to side, coupled with a smile. Verbal hedging, shift in verbal style. The fact that he specifically did not raise the issue with POTUS is not answering the question: “did he tell you what it was?”
Ryan: “Well, the president, as you’ve acknowledged, he reads media reports, and it’s everywhere, this picture with him holding …”
Earnest: “I’m not sure that’s the way I’d describe it.”
Interrupts to say he’s not sure that’s the way he’d describe it. Not sure is not a statement of confidence. Describe what? The abundance of media reports or the photo of him holding a white pack that looks very similar to a pack of cigarettes? Regardless, did not let her finish her question.
Ryan: “It’s everywhere. Check it out. Um, I mean, the size — I mean, I’m not a smoker, but the sizing looks like, I mean, so you’re saying …”
Earnest: “I told you it’s not…they’re not cigarettes. Let’s move on.”
Indeed he did tell her that, but he again is not denying that is what it was. He’s merely reiterating that he told her that.
See the video exchange here:
Again, we can say “So what?” Why are we even talking about this? The real question is “So what if the POTUS was smoking?” Shame on anyone who wants to be judgmental of someone who may have momentarily returned to an addicting habit. Rather, it’s the way this issue is being handled by the White House that is the reason it’s still news.