On Thursday, a State Department spokesman clashed with an Associated Press reporter over a new policy at the agency demanding that all employees give their pronouns in emails.
As reported by the New York Post, spokesman Vedant Patel was giving a briefing when he was asked about the “mandatory” pronouns policy by journalist Matt Lee.
“Have you gotten any emails from any of your colleagues before you came out here… since about noon or so?” Lee asked. Patel asked Lee to clarify what he meant, to which Lee asked if Patel had noticed anything new in the “from” line of any such emails. Patel grew increasingly frustrated, claiming he was not aware of any such changes.
“Within the last hour and a half… the State Department’s internal email system — and I tested this, so I know that it’s true —has added pronouns to people’s … not their signature … but to where it says from,” Lee explained. “Why? This is not something that anybody has a choice about, and so I’m wondering why and who made this decision.” Patel responded by claiming that he was not aware of the “phenomenon.”
Lee continued to press Patel, pointing out that there were many cases of people being addressed with the wrong pronouns.
“I don’t have a problem with doing it and if people want their pronouns attached to it, it’s fine,” Lee clarified. “But it should be a choice. Not something the State Department imposes on people, especially if it’s wrong.”
Patel then said he would “look into it,” then promptly left the briefing room.
A subsequent statement by the State Department blamed the pronouns ordeal on an error by Microsoft Outlook.
“The State Department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) is aware of the recent issues with user profiles on Microsoft Outlook and working to remedy the situation,” tweeted spokesman Matthew Miller. “This change was unintentional and the bureau is working to correct this immediately.”