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05/31/2016 11:13 am ET Updated Jun 01, 2017

US Press Secretary Josh Earnest on the Toughest Question He's Ever Answered

What is the toughest question you have ever had to answer as Press Secretary? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary, on Quora.

April 23, 2015. It was among the toughest days that I have answered questions from the White House press corps. President Obama announced that an American counterterrorism operation had led to the accidental death of an American hostage, Dr. Warren Weinstein. He was an American who was taken hostage in Pakistan while doing humanitarian aid work. The US government had been working around-the-clock for years to locate him and bring him home.

President Obama announced Dr. Weinstein's death that morning, offered his condolences on behalf of the country to Dr. Weinstein's loved ones and ordered that a significant amount of information about the operation be declassified so that the US government could be as transparent as possible what happened. The President said that day that when the United States makes a mistake, we acknowledge it and hold ourselves accountable. Dr. Weinstein was an American who selflessly dedicated his life to helping those less fortunate around the world. His death was a tragedy.

The questions that day were difficult and pointed. The press corps had a responsibility to hold the US government accountable for this terrible mistake. It was my job to explain as much as possible about what happened and why it happened - while protecting information about the operation that remained classified. It was a sad day, but an important day for our democracy that illustrated the priority that President Obama places on accountability and transparency in government when things go wrong - especially when things go wrong.

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