On Friday, after reporters at a White House briefing regarding the historic Serbia-Kozova agreement repeatedly asked questions that had little or nothing to do with the agreement itself, former Ambassador to Germany and interim National Security Advisor Ric Grenell, who was instrumental in getting the deal done, tore into the reporters, snapping, “Maybe it’s too complicated of an issue for you all.”
A reporter asked Grenell, “Ambassador Grenell, clearly you were effective here as the Special Envoy to these talks between Serbia and Kosovo. I wanted to ask you about another initiative you led; last year you kicked off the Trump administration push to decriminalize homosexuality — ”
Grenell cut him off: “I’m just gonna talk about Kosovo and Serbia. I don’t know if you can find it on a map, but this is atrocious. I have to tell you guys: You might be too young to understand what this issue is about. Maybe the older journalists should step up and say, ‘This is a big deal. This is a big issue.’ I am astounded about what happens in DC & especially in this room. I gotta tell you; it’s substantive. Maybe it’s too complicated of an issue for you all.”
A reporter persisted, “But respectfully, this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to speak with these individuals —”
“Okay, but today let’s focus on Serbia,” Grenell interjected. “Let’s take a little time and talk about this 21-year issue, Peter. I mean, 21-year issue, and we’re getting the same questions that are all politics. You guys don’t understand what’s happening outside of Washington D.C. People aren’t listening to you anymore. It’s really a crisis in journalism. And I think it’s because people are too young to understand the issues like Kosovo and Serbia. How about a substantive question?”
One reporter, snidely, “I don’t think any of us came here for a lecture about our questioning.”
Grenell fired back, “I didn’t come here to not talk about anything but Kosovo and Serbia.”
Reporter: The question I’d like to ask you is, is it accurate to say there’s full economic normalization? There was some ambiguity as to whether that was what the deal was about.
Grenell replied, “What do you mean by ‘full’?”
The reporter countered, “That’s the question for you.”
Grenell then shoved the question back where it belonged: “No. No. It’s a question for you. What’s your definition of ‘full’? This is economic normalization for whatever the two parties can put together. A whole bunch on rail. A whole bunch on water. A whole bunch on different industries.”
The reporter tried again. “Is it more accurate to say ‘working towards’ economic normalization? Is that fair?”
Grenell stood firm: “No. I think it’s incredible economic normalization. Air, rail, motor, opening borders, a whole bunch of industries. So, again, I don’t know what’s missing. And I defer to you.”
Prior to the confrontation, Grenell had spoken of the media’s penchant for ignoring successes achieved by the Trump administration in foreign affairs, saying:
I know there’s a lot of reporters who have worked a long time in your industry, and for any reporter that has been working for more than ten years, you will know this story. There was a terrible war and this story has been lingering for decades. And so I really want to appeal to you all as journalists, to dig deep on this story. This is one of those good-news stories. I’m not asking you to do anything but look at the facts, and look at really what’s happening here.
We’ve been working very hard on this agreement for a long time. We had three agreements last year that went largely unnoticed by Washington reporters, and I really just have to say that I think it’s a shame when we talk a lot about symbolism and we don’t dig deep on these stories that last 21 years. What we’ve been able to accomplish hereby pushing the two parties together is truly historic.