John Kerry's Defense Tactics (file)
John Kerry's Defense Tactics (file)Reuters

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee has never been shy of calling out US government spokespeople - often to hilariously cringeworthy effect.

Last Friday, Lee was on-form again, grilling the US State Department over its strange, over-the-top series of condolence messages to the Iranian regime, following the death of President Hassan Rouhani's mother.


Upon hearing of the death, US Secretary of State John Kerry issued the following personal message of condolence: 

We extend our deepest condolences to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Dr. Hassan Rouhani and his family on the passing of his mother, Mrs. Sakineh Peivandi. Such a loss is especially hard coming on the eve of Nowruz, traditionally a time when families gather together in joy and hope. We share in his grief and that of his brother, Presidential Special Advisor Hossein Fereydoun, who has been participating in the talks in Lausanne, and we keep their family in our thoughts.

The State Department then followed up with this tweet:

As Lee noted in his exchange with the State Dept., the White House was notably less eager to congratulate Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on his election victory just days earlier.

Even without that, however, such fawning comments by the US government to the head of state of a hostile country are utterly bizarre in their own right. Or, as Lee put it: "Aren't you guys laying it on a bit thick?"

"This is the leader of a country that you accuse of being the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, you accuse of trying to develop a nuclear weapon which its leaders have said it will use against one of your top allies.

"It's understandable that one would express condolences, but it looks like you're going out of the way to... make a point here. I mean, are you sending flowers as well? What is it that you hope to achieve?"

The State Department's response? "Don't read into it."