Remarks at Top of Daily Press Briefing

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Press Briefing Room
Washington, DC
January 19, 2017

SECRETARY KERRY: Anyway, I just want to come down here to prep Kirby – (laughter) – and make sure that he’s up to this last briefing here. I want to thank a number of people. First of all, I really want to thank John Kirby leading the team here, together with Mark Toner and Marie Harf and Jen Psaki, who sort of carried the burden of briefing everybody and standing here for many hours and trying to make sure that we were as fulsome as we could be in explaining policy and in answering your questions. And I think they’ve done an absolutely spectacular job. They – I’ve watched them sometimes, and I’ve been amazed at how intensive you can be and how resilient they can be. So I’m particularly appreciative.

And when they haven’t been doing it, obviously there were some other folks up here during the time that I’ve been here. Toria Nuland, as everybody remembers, was the spokesperson when I first came in and traveled with me on my first trip till she began to segue out. And Patrick Ventrell and Elizabeth Trudeau, who continues at it, and Jeff Rathke. So my gratitude to every single one of them.

And the second thank you is to all of you. And I want to emphasize what President Obama said the other day. I’ve had a relationship one way or the other with the press since 1969, maybe, when I think I first went on the Dick Cavett Show and talked about what was happening in Vietnam. And that relationship continued through our protests into 1971, and then all the way beyond – sometimes contentious, sometimes disagreeing, sometimes fully recognizing what we had accomplished and done. But all in all --

QUESTION: And you haven’t met a more brilliant press corps than the ones here.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I was about to get there. (Laughter.) You’ve got to give me a chance here. I’m warming up.

What I have never met is a press corps that is more interested in really getting the facts and digging in to try to understand some very complicated policy. And I do want to salute you on that. There was a lot of tricky stuff on the table at one time or another, whether it was negotiations between Israel and Palestine and things we couldn’t talk about publicly, and it’s hard to report on without some of that input; or, obviously, the Joint Plan of Action, the comprehensive plan of action with Iran, where secrecy at times was essential to being able to get certain things done, but nevertheless it was important that we explain what we’re doing and try to give you enough to be able to write substantively that there was progress, and that we were moving.

It is more important today than I can think at any time that I’ve been in public life that the press be empowered and legitimized where it is, in fact, fully legitimate in the sense that there are some people, and in some cases countries, in other cases non-state actor players internationally, who spend a fair amount of time trying to abuse the privilege of the press and not be factual. And as you all know, there’s nothing more important than the credibility of the press and the credibility of what people are reading. Maintaining that is essential for any organization or for any individuals who band together to communicate to others under the banner of some kind of legitimate media organization.

We’re living in a time where that’s being put to test, and it’s not exclusively being put to test by the – by the abusers. It’s also being put to test by some folks in the political world who want to use it to discredit it. And I don’t think that’s – that’s not going to serve America’s values and interests in the long run at all.

So as I leave here, I just want to thank all of you for the relationship that we’ve had. We’ve put in 1.4 million miles, 91 countries. I’ve spent some 3,000, close to 3,700 hours on a telephone communicating with counterparts and leaders in one part of the world or another. And I am so grateful to our whole team. I’m not going to go into what I expect to share with folks a little bit later this afternoon, but I want to thank you for keeping America firmly tied to this great standard that has served us since our inception of allowing people to express themselves freely, sometimes perhaps inadvertently to make a mistake and to be wrong, but nevertheless to have that right, without the fear of going to jail, without the fear of being punished, without the fear of being intimidated and bullied and without retribution for a legitimate, bona fide effort to report on what is happening. Our country sets a standard for the world with respect to our telling the truth, and it is vital that we stay fact-grounded and value-grounded in what has made this country the strong and remarkable place that it is.

Now, I thank you. Each and every one of you plays a critical role, and that’s sometimes at risk of life, always at great sacrifice in terms of time with family, time away from your own lives and choices, because it’s a grind out there on the road. So a profound thank you to every single one of you. I’m sure I will be crossing paths with you in the work that lies ahead, and there’s a lot of work that lies ahead. And I look forward to engaging with you and continuing the strong, both professional but I think also I can say safely personal relationship that we have forged. Thanks very much. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, John, very much.


QUESTION: Thank you.