Wednesday, May 16, 2018

State Department Says Controversial Pastor Was Invited By Ambassador

As previously reported, one of the pastors who delivered an invocation at yesterday's opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem was Robert Jeffress, who had made controversial statements in the past about Catholics, Jews, Mormons and various other religious groups. At a news conference yesterday (full text), State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert was asked about the decision to invite Jeffress.  Here is part of her exchange with a reporter:
QUESTION: Do you have any further explanation for why it was that Pastor Jeffress was chosen to participate in the ceremony given his past controversial comments?
MS NAUERT: I can just tell you that Ambassador Friedman, I know, was looking at a variety of people to be a part of the service or the ceremony, and that’s who was invited. I don’t have anything more for you on that.
QUESTION: Was the State Department aware of some of his past comments regarding specifically Mormonism, Islam, Muslim, and --
MS NAUERT: We certainly would not agree with --
QUESTION: -- Jewish --
MS NAUERT: -- his assertions. We would certainly not agree with the pastor’s remarks, some of his controversial remarks that he has made about various religious groups, but he was chosen by Ambassador Friedman, who was certainly welcome to do so, and made that decision.
QUESTION: Well, wait, so that means that if not – even though you don’t agree with those comments, you might say that they’re wrong or what – I don’t know what term you would use --
MS NAUERT: I think I was just pretty clear. I said we do not agree with his opinion.
QUESTION: But – so that’s not disqualifying to be – I mean, does this – is this the embassy of the United States of America or is it basically Ambassador Friedman’s embassy?
MS NAUERT: As we have seen before – I seem to recall not too long ago that there was another embassy that made some decisions – embassies certainly have their free will sometimes to make decisions about who they want to bring in as guest lecturers or people to lead a ceremony or some sort of a celebration. To my knowledge, we did not have any role in making that decision, but --
MS NAUERT: Not that we asked to. I just – I’m not aware if we had any decision-making --
QUESTION: Okay. So I just want to make sure I understand. So this is the equivalent – you’re saying it’s kind of like the equivalent of the Berlin situation?
MS NAUERT: I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that embassies and people around the world bring in lots and lots of people who have various opinions. Okay?