From the Pentagon:
Briefer: Capt. John Kirby, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Media Operations
Q: When we asked George the day before yesterday about the North Korea story, he was very dismissive of it, to say the least, and was critical of the reporter who wrote it. And now we find out that the general involved said in fact he did say all of those things, although he did not — the general himself takes responsibility and says he didn’t mean it to come out the way it did.
So why did the Pentagon not tell us the day before yesterday that the general was acknowledging that he had said any of this? Why were we not offered the complete information?
CAPT. KIRBY: Well, I think timing here is an issue. I don’t think the general’s statement had come out by the time that George did his briefing the other day.
But I think what George said was, and I agree with it, is that the general’s comments were taken out of context. And when something’s taken out of context, that’s not just — that’s not always just the fault of the journalist or the reporter, sometimes it’s the fault of the speaker. And the general acknowledged that he could have been a little bit more concise and a little bit more clear about what he was speaking to.
As I understand it, he was answering a hypothetical question about future potential outcomes, and it was just literally the words he used to answer the question which led to some confusion.
But look, I mean, the bottom line is that there are no U.S. troops on the ground in North Korea. We do take our alliance with our South Korean partners very, very seriously, as we do the security of the Korean Peninsula. And we continue to try to make that alliance stronger and better and more robust all the time.
Q: My question — I understand what you’re saying. However, he is — when you — the — when George spoke from the podium and — did you have the full information at that time to make the statements that you did, that the reporter was distorting the facts?
CAPT. KIRBY: We had — we had enough information to know that the general’s comments had been taken out of context, that they — that as — that he did — he did not mean it to come across the way it was reported. We did know that then. We didn’t have the general’s statement at that point, but we did know that they had been taken out of context.
Q: And let me just then, for the record, ask: You said there were no U.S. troops on the ground in North Korea. The question is of course have U.S. special forces ever parachuted into North Korea on a mission?
CAPT. KIRBY: Not to my knowledge, Barbara. …
Q: Going back to the North Korea story, the quote that George had was that it was contorted, distorted and misreported. Do you still think that’s a fair characterization?
CAPT. KIRBY: Yes, I do.
Q: What exactly is misreported, though, if it was a –
CAPT. KIRBY: Well, I think — again, it was — the reporting was that there were U.S. boots on the ground in North Korea.
There aren’t. There aren’t. And the general didn’t say that there were. He was talking hypothetically about a future scenario that he was asked about.
But look, I mean, this isn’t about bashing the journalist who wrote this blog, and it’s not about bashing the general, who admitted that he used some unfortunate rhetoric. These things happen. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. He didn’t choose his words as precisely as he would have liked, and he admitted that, and what resulted was a story that didn’t get it right in terms of what the situation really is in North Korea. And that’s really the larger — think we got to keep our mind on here, which is there aren’t troops in North Korea and that we remain committed to our alliance there. That’s really the important thing.