In what is normally "business as usual" at the Daily Briefings, a deviation from foreign policy, diplomatic relations and State business diverted momentarily into what Matt Lee (Associated Press) termed as a "brief foray into media criticism" involving Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf and either the Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (The O'Reilly Factor) or FNC Correspondent James Rosen.
At the heart of the matter was Marie Harf's tweets from earlier that morning which on the surface appeared to be a bit of "tit-for-tat" over the effectiveness of State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki's ability to express the overall US stance on the "War with ISIS" during September 2nd's Daily Press Briefing.
A clearly annoyed Harf stated "I think that when the anchor of a leading cable news show uses, quite frankly, sexist, personally offensive language, that I actually don’t think they would ever use about a man against the person that shares this podium with me, I think I have an obligation, and I think it’s important to step up and say that’s not okay. And quite frankly, I wish that more people would step up when men say those things about women in public positions and say that it’s not okay."
Video Source: http://youtu.be/tGGOHq3M32A?list=UUlh4PDfaLqDD-tartqShIvQ
It's not exactly clear who her target was, however O'Reilly stated during his broadcast on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor that Jen Psaki looks "way out of her depth over there... just the way she delivers... it just doesn't look like she has the gravitas for that job..." This obviously started the Twitter War, which seemed to include not only Marie Harf, but James Rosen (Fox), Bill Gertz (Washington Free Beacon / Washington Times), Professor Tom Nichols (US Naval War College) as well as Jen Psaki.
Barbs were tossed in both directions, using Marie Harf's background experience with the CIA calling into question the credibility of the spokesperson. Obviously, everyone was just a little uptight, and James Rosen asked to be pulled out of the tweet-fest. Marie's main concern seemed to focus on sexist remarks being thrown at Jen Psaski, although, on the surface, the comments merely focused on her inability to answer straight-forward questions.
Marie Harf's Twitter
Overall, it is more likely that Jen Psaki was having trouble answering questions due to the fluctuation and muddy foreign policy plaguing the Obama Administration. There is fluctuation every week on the official stance of the Administration on ISIS, Russia, Iraq, Ukraine among the top issues. It's no wonder Jen has had some trouble over the past few days answering questions.
Marie Harf however cleared up many of the "loose ends" on September 4th, providing a very crisp Daily Briefing which was factual, expedient and a much more confident Harf didn't waffle on her responses.
To Harf's credit, she is extremely well-versed in foreign affairs and rarely stumbles on difficult questions, although sometimes not as forthcoming with the answers as the press would like. That isn't Ms. Harf's fault however, as the marching orders over what Jen and Marie are allowed to reveal come from Secretary of State John Kerry or others in the Administration, possibly up to the President.
If in fact O'Reilly's comment was based on the sex of the spokesperson (in this case Jen Psaki) alone, then an argument could be made that his remarks were out of line. However, on the surface at least, his comments were more aimed at the inability to answer direct questions, even after being rephrased several times by James Rosen. In stark contrast to Jen Psaki's stumbling on 9/2/14, Marie Harf on Thursday was easily able to navigate complex questions and provided one of her better Daily Briefings.
As it stands, Marie Harf has reason to boast; she is young and aggressive, has made a name for herself in Washington, and matter of factly is probably one of the better Spokespersons in the Administration, male or female.