U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it was "clumsy and stupid and inappropriate" that someone in the department's press office edited out embarrassing footage in a press briefing on the Iran nuclear talks.
Two committees of Congress said on June 3 that they were investigating evidence that several minutes of a videotape of a December 2, 2013 department news briefing were deleted, during which a spokeswoman was answering a question about the secret negotiations between the United States and Iran which led to last year's Iran nuclear deal.
In the edited section, then department spokeswoman Jen Psaki appeared to confirm a Fox News reporter's assertion that a previous spokesman had deliberately concealed the back-channel talks when they were occurring behind the scenes.
A key quote by Psaki, who is now director of communications at the White House, was edited out: "There are times where diplomacy needs privacy. This is a good example of that."
Speaking to reporters in Paris on June 3, Kerry said the doctoring was "unacceptable," and he is investigating the matter.
"Whatever happened was both clumsy and stupid and inappropriate, and I'm trying to find out more details... I would like to find out exactly what happened and why," he said.
Psaki has denied ordering the doctoring, and Kerry said he believed her.
"There's no question in my mind she didn't even know about this and was as surprised and taken aback as I am," he said.
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has asked the department for more information, and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee has asked the department's inspector general to investigate the matter.
In a letter to Kerry released on June 3, Representative Jason Chaffetz asked for documents identifying the official or officials involved in editing the videotape. Chaffetz, the oversight and government reform panel's chairman, said he was making the request "to better understand the facts and circumstances surrounding the deletion."
Separately, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce asked the department's Inspector General Steve Linnick on June 3 to open an investigation, saying that the department's explanation "raises disturbing questions."
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP