On Thursday, a press briefing with State Department spokesman Ned Price led to a heated back-and-forth with Associated Press (AP) reporter Matt Lee, after Price claimed that Russia was planning to “stage a fake attack” on itself in order to bolster support for invading Ukraine.
As reported by Fox News, Price claimed that the United States government had in its possession evidence indicating that the Russian government was working on a propaganda video that would feature this alleged false-flag attack. Price described such a video as “one of a number of options that the Russian government is developing as a fake pretext to initiate and potentially justify military aggression against Ukraine.”
In response, Lee responded by describing Price’s comments as “quite a mouthful,” before stating that “you’ve made an allegation that they might do that. Have they actually done it?”
“What we know, Matt, is what … I have just said. That they have engaged in this activity,” Price responded.
When Lee pressed Price on “what activity” he was referring to, Price claimed that the State Department had already “made these reports public,” to which Lee asked “what report public?”
“You have shown no evidence to confirm that … What is the evidence?” Lee pressed further. “I mean, this is like ‘crisis actors,’ really? This is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting into. What evidence do you have to support the idea that there is some propaganda film in the making?”
When Price claimed that the information had already been declassified, Lee asked where the information had been found. Price offered to hand over a transcript of the briefing that allegedly contained this evidence, to which Lee pointed out “that’s not evidence, that’s you saying it. I would like to see some proof that … shows that the Russians are doing that.”
Price then directly criticized Lee, saying “I’m sorry you don’t like the content. I’m sorry you are doubting the information that is in the possession of the U.S. government.” He then tried to pivot back to the alleged evidence of a false flag attack, saying that “we are trying to deter the Russians from moving forward with this type of activity. That is why we were making it public today.”
“If the Russians don’t go forward with this,” Price continued, “that is not ipso facto an indication that they never had plans to do so.” To this, Lee simply responded by noting that “then it’s unprovable, my god.”
In the aftermath of the exchange, social media responded largely by taking Lee’s side, with many noting that he was simply doing his job as a reporter. In response, Price issued a statement complimenting Lee as a “renowned” reporter, and that “clearly, he’s no one’s dupe…nothing but respect for him, which I underscored in a call to him after the briefing.”