State Department spokesman quits after criticizing WikiLeaks suspect’s treatment

March 14, 2011

By Mary Beth Sheridan, The Washington Post

Chief State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley resigned Sunday after angering the White House by calling the treatment of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley E. Manning “counterproductive and stupid.”

Crowley made the remark off-the-cuff during a presentation to a small group in Cambridge, Mass., but it quickly lit up the blogosphere. President Obama rejected the criticism Friday, saying that the Pentagon had assured him that conditions of the Army private’s confinement – which included being forced to sleep naked for a brief period – were “appropriate.”

In a statement Sunday, Crowley said: “Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation.”

A retired Air Force officer, Crowley served on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton before being tapped as spokesman by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Affable and witty, Crowley was well-regarded by reporters and became a fixture on TV screens around the world through his daily briefings.

But he was part of a State Department media operation that has undergone considerable turmoil. A State Department inspector general’s report last year said the office had problems with morale, staffing, communication and oversight. Crowley had a difficult relationship with Philippe Reines, a senior adviser to Clinton, and had less access than some of his predecessors to the nation’s top diplomat. For most of the past year, Clinton hasn’t taken a spokesman on her trips overseas.

Even before the latest controversy, Crowley had been expected to leave within months, possibly for an ambassadorship. That prospect is now out. Crowley will be replaced at least temporarily by Mike Hammer, a longtime diplomat who recently returned to State after serving as National Security Council spokesman.

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