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White House, Congress Clash Over Aide's Tactics Pushing Iran Deal

  • RFE/RL

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said he created an "echo chamber" to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the press and Congress.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said he created an "echo chamber" to sell the Iran nuclear deal to the press and Congress.

The White House and congressional Republicans sparred on May 12 over an aide who was reported to have used questionable tactics to "sell" the Iran nuclear deal to Congress and the press.

Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told The New York Times Magazine last week that most of the reporters covering the deal knew little about it, so he was able to create a story line that bolstered the White House's case.

The story said that Rhodes misrepresented the timeline of the negotiations and created what he called an "echo chamber" of supportive experts to affirm the White House's favorable views to the press and Congress.

The article created a furor in Congress, where a House oversight committee is demanding that Rhodes testify on "White House narratives on the Iran deal" at a hearing on May 17.

In addition to the hearing, one Republican lawmaker has filed legislation to rein in the National Security Council (NSC) for growing too large and overreaching.

"Now we hear reports of NSC staffers running misinformation campaigns targeted at Congress and the press," said Representative Mac Thornberry, author of the legislation.

Since the article was published, Rhodes has contended that the White House's case was based on facts.

The White House on May 12 did not rule out the possibility of Rhodes testifying next week, but it accused Republicans of indulging in "political theater" over the article.

"I think there are some people who have some explaining to do when it comes to the wildly false accusations that they made about the Iran deal. And it's not the administration," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

"It's Republicans who are demonstrably wrong when it comes to the Iran deal," he said, accusing some lawmakers of being "wildly misinformed, mistaken or lying" by exagerrating how much Iran would benefit financially from the deal.

The chairman of the House oversight committee, Representative Jason Chaffetz, said on Twitter he'd be glad to have the deal's critics testify as well, if Rhodes is "man enough to show. Let's discuss the truth."

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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