A top State Department spokesman on Thursday boasted that his department is open and transparent, but could hardly finish the sentence before erupting in laughter.
"Welcome to the State Department," spokesman Mark Toner said. "I think we have some interns in the back. Welcome. Good to see you in this exercise in transparency and democracy."
Toner then burst out laughing at his own comments as reporters in the room laughed with him.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to break out laughing there," he said. The incident prompted Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee to say, "I thought it was an exercise in spin and obfuscation."
Toner proceeded to give a live example of why he was laughing at the idea that State is open and transparent. Toner was asked if he could share more details about the controversial $400 million cash payment to Iran, just as Iran was releasing four U.S. hostages.
When asked Thursday if he could shed any more light on the controversial payment, Toner said he couldn't be any more transparent.
"We generally make a practice of not commenting publicly on the details of these kinds of transactions, such as settlement payments," he said. "We don't normally identify the parties involved, and that's just due to the confidential nature of these transactions."
He also said he couldn't even confirm the details of the cash payment as reported by the Wall Street Journal. "Not prepared to confirm them."
When it was pointed out that his answers weren't very transparent, Toner said, "your point is well taken."
The State Department has come under fire for years for failing to be as transparent as it claims. For example, it took several months for it to finally release the emails it had from former Secretary Hillary Clinton, which it only did pursuant to a court order.
Then, State learned that thousands of additional emails that Clinton erased had been captured by the FBI. State has said it would release those as well, but has not given a timeline.
This year, after it was discovered that one of its press briefing videos was altered, State Department spokespeople said immediately that it was just a "glitch." Three weeks later, State finally admitted the video was altered intentionally, but it then said it had no further ideas on how to investigate how this happened.
Only after Secretary of State John Kerry demanded a more thorough investigation did officials agree to look again, but eight weeks later, no progress has been made.