Crowley resigns as State Department spokesman
March 13th, 2011
12:47 PM ET
11 years ago

Crowley resigns as State Department spokesman

Washington (CNN) - P.J. Crowley abruptly resigned Sunday as State Department spokesman over controversial comments he made about the Bradley Manning case.

Sources close to the matter said the resignation, first reported by CNN, came under pressure from the White House, where officials were furious about his suggestion that the Obama administration is mistreating Manning, the Army private who is being held in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, under suspicion that he leaked highly classified State Department cables to the website WikiLeaks.

Speaking to a small group at MIT last week, Crowley was asked about allegations that Manning is being tortured and kicked up a firestorm by answering that what is being done to Manning by Defense Department officials "is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid."

Crowley did add that "nonetheless, Bradley Manning is in the right place" because of his alleged crimes, according to a blog post by BBC reporter Philippa Thomas, who was present at Crowley's talk.

"The unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a serious crime under U.S. law," Crowley said in a statement Sunday. "My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Bradley Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership.

"The exercise of power in today's challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values," Crowley said. "Given the impact of my remarks, for which I take full responsibility, I have submitted my resignation."

Crowley has told friends that he is deeply concerned that mistreatment of Manning could undermine the legitimate prosecution of the young private. Crowley has also made clear he has the Obama administration's best interests at heart because he thinks any mistreatment of Manning could be damaging around the world to President Obama, who has tried to end the perception that the United States tortures prisoners.

Nevertheless, Crowley's political fate was sealed Friday when Obama was asked at a White House news conference about his comments regarding Manning.

Obama revealed that he had asked Pentagon officials "whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of (Manning's) confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards."

In a comment that drew howls of protest from liberals, Obama added that Pentagon officials "assure me that they are. I can't go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manning's safety as well."

Manning's treatment has become a flashpoint for liberals, with Amnesty International noting he has been confined to a windowless cell for 23 hours a day, is stripped down to his boxers at night and is not given pillows or blankets.

Manning's lawyer also says the young private recently had to sleep in the nude because defense officials thought there was a suicide threat and decided to take away his boxer shorts.

Crowley is highly respected on foreign policy matters, dating back to his time as National Security Council spokesman under then-President Bill Clinton. He has been the Obama administration's public face on many international stories as the daily briefer at the State Department for Secretary Hillary Clinton.

But he has not had a completely smooth relationship with officials in the Obama White House, and eyebrows were raised several months ago when White House aide Mike Hammer was sent over to the State Department to serve as Crowley's deputy.

A senior White House official stressed that Crowley's exit was in the works for months and said the MIT incident only "hastened that departure."

"Everybody likes P.J. This was more a situation where it wasn't the right fit," said the official, noting there were times when Crowley wasn't on the same page as Clinton, let alone the White House.

Hammer will replace Crowley as the assistant secretary for public affairs, Clinton said in a statement Sunday.

She said she accepted Crowley's resignation "with regret."

"P.J. has served our nation with distinction for more than three decades, in uniform and as a civilian," she said. "His service to country is motivated by a deep devotion to public policy and public diplomacy, and I wish him the very best."

A little-known factor in Crowley's comments about Manning was revealed Saturday by April Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio who covered Crowley in the Clinton White House.

Ryan wrote on Twitter that Crowley "dislikes treatment of prisoners as his father was a Prisoner of War."

While it's true that Crowley's father was imprisoned during World War II, people close to him downplay that as a major factor in his comments about Manning, saying the biggest factor is simply that Crowley believes what he said.

In his statement, Crowley said he leaves with "great admiration and affection" for his colleagues and "deep respect for the journalists who report on foreign policy and global developments every day, in many cases under dangerous conditions and subject to serious threats. Their efforts help make governments more responsible, accountable and transparent."

Filed under: State Department
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. George

    Well, not only is the shabby soft torture of Manning ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid, it turns out the firing of P.J. Crowly for pointing out the obvious is also ridiculous and stupid.........I guess the flicker of idealism and hope in the Obama crowd has just about flickered out......the despots of the world are all raising their glasses in a toast to U.S. hypocrisy...

    March 13, 2011 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. James Love

    The White House should offer Crowley a job. The benefits to the United States of treating Manning that way are clearly negative. If no one at the White House understands that, they have a staffing problem. And, why Can't Obama see this himself?

    March 13, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. WDrad

    Stupid liberal with foot in mouth disease. These are the types of comments you get from liberals who have no idea how the military works, why it works, and how to conduct ones self while in the military. Heck, this guy could barely conduct himself in a professional manner.

    March 13, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. Tanin

    US government rules are pretty clear: Detainee abuse is allowed – speaking out against it isn't.

    March 13, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. potvin

    Another left-wing loser underling of Obama's bites the dust. Where's Holder's resignation?

    March 13, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. jellymon

    Cue the Queen song..."Another one bites the dust...."

    March 13, 2011 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. junglejim123

    WHAT ? Did he tell the truth ??

    March 13, 2011 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  8. mac

    Ahh, yes. This is what happens when you speak the truth.

    March 13, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. Ramon F Herrera

    Let's just hope this is not one of those: "Fire first, apologize and beg to come back later" cases.

    March 13, 2011 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  10. Larry L

    As a Soldier of 34 years service I feel strongly Manning should be held for treason. The willful release of classified information, during times of war, is reason to execute a Soldier. He is a disgrace to the uniform and a traitor to his Country. Get a rope...

    March 13, 2011 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. Paul NYC

    Good on Crowley for speaking up. The Obama Administration should be ashamed for treating anyone this way let alone an American citizen. Shame.

    March 13, 2011 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    P.J. speaking out about Manning goes far beyond that, which makes it questionable if P.J. Crowley can be trusted in the best interest of America's security.

    March 13, 2011 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  13. Bob Zmuda

    Or, instead of firing him, you could have listened to him. Bradley Manning's treatment is ridiculous and petty, and everybody knows it. He's a human being. Act like that matters to you.

    March 13, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  14. Ray

    Wow ... bad move on the White House part (and I'm a supporter). Secretary Clinton herself criticized the way Manning was being treated. They're going to fire her too? Now guess who's going to be gunnin for Obama? .. And the man is highly respected. Now, I agree that we may not know all the details and it sounds to me like this was really more about suicide prevention then torture. If there was an issue of temperature I'm sure there would have been mention of that ... but, nevertheless, the overreaction for this by firing the man is ridiculous.

    March 13, 2011 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  15. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    I would be willing to believe that someone could hang himself with a bed sheet or a blanket, but doing it with a pair of boxer shorts is a stretch.

    March 13, 2011 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. Mary

    I agree completely with you, George. We become more hypocritical day by day.

    March 13, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  17. Frogeye

    I am inclined to belief that Crowley was simply firing the first salvo of Hillary's 2012 challenge of Obama.

    March 13, 2011 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  18. Amir Goy

    Mr. Crowly remarkably, and obviously... still somehow retained a shred conscience for a person in a position such as his. This sort of thing, just as not something to be tolerated by those whose policies he could never hope to 'justify' anyway.

    March 13, 2011 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  19. Bill in STL

    This is ludicrous. Whether you like his treatment or not, whether you feel it is justified or not.... You know have the "Don" Obama pushing him out.... The one thing consistent in this administration is ... you are out if you don't agree with the "Don"..... politics at its best ... Chicago Style!!!! Let me make you an offer you can't refuse!

    March 13, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  20. Mary

    As a long-time Obama supporter, I am profoundly disappointed.

    March 13, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  21. Sbulcroft

    Keeping anyone in solitary confinement is cruel and abusive treatment. If he is suicidal I can see why.

    March 13, 2011 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. Jake

    Manning is being treated better than he would be in just about any country he aided by his treason. Had he committed the same crime in any of those countries he’d have been tortured to death.

    Here he is kept safe and in good health. He is being well treated and will be treated so through his fair trial right up to the moment the trap door opens and he drops to his just reward.

    March 13, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  23. Gary

    Obama is a complete and utter disappointment. I wish I had my vote back. Someone please keep track of the promises that he has actually kept.., a very short list indeed, but I digress. The treatment of Manning is worse than couterproductive and stupid – it is UNAMERICAN.

    March 13, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  24. David

    No Sir, Manning's treatment is not being condemned by "liberals" as you keep writing. It is being condemned by people who respect the UCMJ and the US constitution which bar any form of pre-trial punishment, incarceration under conditions more rigorous than needed to keep the subject safe and secure for trial, cruel and unusual punishment and grant the right to a speedy trial.

    March 13, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  25. Chris Brantley

    when this guy is being walked to the gallows by the military, he'll be BEGGING to be put in solitary confinement. it mystifies me the number of bleeding hearts who spend their time defending the condemned. or those who marry them

    March 13, 2011 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
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