Cairo Embassy Statement Approved by Chargé d'Affaires, Published Against State Dept's Wishes

The Cairo Embassy's controversial statement about "abuse" of free speech was written by a senior public affairs officer and approved by the Chargé d'affaires. A draft of the statement was sent to the State Department; officials there recommended against it but the statement was posted anyway.

Larry Schwartz is the senior public affairs officer at the Cairo Embassy. He drafted the statement and oversaw staff who tweeted it out line by line on the Embassy's account. According to a detailed report, the statement was approved by Deputy Chief of Mission Marc Sievers, who was placed in charge of Embassy affairs while the Egyptian Ambassador, Anne Patterson, was away in Washington, D.C.

Before the statement went public, a draft was sent to individuals at the State Department. They told Schwartz not to publish it as currently written, saying it "was not a good statement and that it needed major revisions." However, Schwartz ignored the advice and published the statement anyway. And that's when things got really interesting.

A heated discussion ensued among State Department and White House officials over e-mail as the controversy over the statement grew Tuesday evening, even grabbing the attention of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton...

"People at the highest levels both at the State Department and at the White House were not happy with the way the statement went down. There was a lot of anger both about the process and the content," the official said. "Frankly, people here did not understand it. The statement was just tone deaf. It didn't provide adequate balance. We thought the references to the 9/11 attacks were inappropriate, and we strongly advised against the kind of language that talked about ‘continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.'"

Back in Cairo, Schwartz was aware of the upset he had caused in Washington but continued to defend the statement. He directed his staff to issue a tweet defending it as late as 7PM EST, more than 13 hours after it was first published.

So far, neither Schwartz nor Sievers have been disciplined. Both remain at work in Cairo.


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