From suggesting combating ISIS with jobs to dismissing questions about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s conduct as “rumor,” spokeswoman Marie Harf has woven a rich tapestry as the voice of the State Department.
But she’s moving on.
The department announced late Tuesday that starting June 1, Harf will be moving out of the briefing room and beginning a “new role” as senior adviser for strategic communications to Secretary of State John Kerry. (Ex-Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has already assumed the role of spokesman, while former deputy spokesman Mark Toner is moving into his old job.)
Here’s a look back at some of Harf’s more memorable moments:
June 3, 2014: In response to questioning by Fox News at the briefing, Harf downplayed criticism of the recently announced trade of five Taliban fighters for Bergdahl.
She downplayed “conflicting reports” and “rumor” when asked about accounts from Bergdahl’s platoon-mates that he walked off base.
“There’s a lot of rumor and telephone game that’s being played here,” she said.
After continued questioning, she said: “It happened five years ago.”
Bergdahl would later be charged with desertion. Former commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChrystal also told Fox News this week it was his initial understanding as well that Bergdahl walked off his base before he disappeared.
Sept. 25, 2014: Harf was asked, in an interview with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, to respond to a warning that the U.S. would lose if President Obama did not approve ground troops to fight the Islamic State in Iraq.
“I’m not exactly sure what ‘lose’ means,” Harf said, arguing the solution is “targeted military action.” She said the prior U.S. engagement in Iraq, with tens of thousands of U.S. troops on the ground, couldn’t prevent terrorism.
Feb. 16, 2015: Speaking on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” Harf suggested that jobs programs are needed to help take on the Islamic State.
“We’re killing a lot of them, and we’re going to keep killing more of them. … But we cannot win this war by killing them,” she said. “We need … to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether –”
Harf was interrupted by host Chris Matthews, who pointed out, “There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor Muslims.” She acknowledged there’s “no easy solution” and said the U.S. would still take out ISIS leaders. But Harf said: “If we can help countries work at the root causes of this — what makes these 17-year-old kids pick up an AK-47 instead of trying to start a business?”
Feb. 17, 2015: Responding to critics of her remarks on helping fight terror by creating jobs, Harf said her statements were just “too nuanced” for her critics.
“Longer term, we cannot kill every terrorist around the world, nor should we try,” Harf said on CNN. “How do you get at the root causes of this? Look, it might be too nuanced an argument for some, like I’ve seen over the past 24 hours some of the commentary out there, but it’s really the smart way that Democrats, Republicans, military commanders, our partners in the Arab world think we need to combat this.” Harf went on to say the approach doesn’t fit “into a sound bite.”
March 6, 2015: Fielding questions at the briefing about ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of private email, Harf was asked if the department would release a 2011 cable — obtained by Fox News — showing her office told employees not to use personal email for security reasons.
“I think everyone can read it at FoxNews.com,” she quipped.
She then assured, “That was in no way an endorsement,” before adding: “I don’t mean to be flip about it.”
Everyone can still read it at FoxNews.com, here.
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