Clinton spokesman stands by her words in immigration fracas
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that the U.S. government would sue to block Arizona’s tough new immigration law raised some eyebrows around town, not to mention in Arizona.
But at the State Department, Clinton’s press people have had little to say — except that “her words speak for themselves.”
And they have said that over and over again.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner was grilled about Clinton’s comments in an interview with an Ecuadoran television station on a trip to Latin America last week.
A lawyer herself, Clinton is known to be careful with words and her statement that President Barack Obama had directed the Justice Department to prepare a lawsuit against the act was the first indication that the administration may seek a legal challenge to the Arizona law, which would require police to determine the immigration status of any person they suspect of being in the country illegally.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who supported the law, was quick to react, saying she was “stunned and angered” by Clinton’s comments.
But with neither the White House nor the Justice Department ready to publicly confirm Clinton’s prediction, spokesman Toner was left to fend for himself as he sought to explain his boss’s words.
Selected pieces of the conversation follow:
TONER: She was asked a question. The words speak for themselves.
QUESTION: So you’re saying she did not misspeak?
TONER: I’m saying her words stand for themselves.
QUESTION: But the question is not about the legal steps. The question is about what the secretary said.
TONER: And I will say for the third time that her words speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Let’s talk about what she acutally said in the interview. Did she misspeak?
TONER: Her words speak for themselves.
QUESTION: That doesn’t answer the question.
TONER: No, her words speak for themselves.
QUESTION: She did not — she did not misspeak, so the administration is intending to sue Arizona.
TONER: Her words speak for themselves
Toner ended the exchange by noting that “I’ve said what I’m going to say on this,” words which presumably speak for themselves.
Now we’ll have to wait to hear what Clinton — or her boss President Obama — have to say.
Reuters photos by Kevin Lamarque.