Washington, DC – On April 27, 2017, a curtain came down on an excellent stint by the State Department deputy spokesperson as Mark Toner took to the podium for one last time to brief journalists at the daily press briefing.
During his remarks, in an emotional voice Toner told the journalists, “This is, believe it or not, my last briefing as deputy spokesman. It’s with mixed feelings that I reach this moment, because I’ve loved this job. Honestly, I was just telling a group of young kids who were brought in to Take Your Child to Work Day earlier today that, to me, this was the greatest honor that I could ever hope to have as a Foreign Service officer.”
Remembering his early days, Toner said, “I came out of journalism school into this gig, and I always thought this would be one of the greatest jobs to have within the Foreign Service. And I’ve enjoyed working with all of you over the years through good times and bad times and some really tough days at the podium, but I respect fundamentally with all of my heart the work that all of you do in carrying out your really important roles in our democracy, and I want you to know that.”
Asked by the IAT editor, Tejinder Singh, to comment when was his best or the worst day from that podium, Toner called it “a really loaded question, actually,” adding, “I’m glad no one else asked me that.”
“There have been very difficult days here … when I came into this job, I can remember – I mean, it was when the Arab Spring was first coming into fruition. We had an earthquake in Japan that was threatening to become a nuclear meltdown. The world was in crisis. It remains in crisis, and that’s just a reality of the world we live in today. There’s all kinds of difficult issues that we deal with,” answered Toner.
“I think that there’s always going to be the desire for, as we say, do-overs, and I’m not going to speak to any specific issue. But I can always say that the people in this building, including the Secretary and on down, are always trying. They’re out there, engaged and trying to make the world a better place, and that’s a point of pride,” added Toner.
At the beginning before asking a question, Matt Lee, the AP Correspondent thanked Toner saying, “On behalf of the press corps, I want to thank you for those years of service, particularly since January over the course of the last couple months when things have been, as they often are, in transitions, unsettled to say the least.’
Lee stressed, “And through it all, you’ve been incredibly professional and really just, I think, the model of the kind of career Foreign Service or Civil Service officer. So on behalf of all of us and on behalf of the public, the American public, thank you.”
Wishing Toner “Godspeed and good luck,” Arikat Said, Al Quds Daily newspaper correspondent remarked, “You have been really solid and professional. I never once took your accommodating me for granted or indulging me all throughout. I really appreciate it. You have always been there for us.”
Portrait on the Second Floor
At the end of the briefing, Susan Stevenson, the acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Public Affairs presented Toner a mock-up of a portrait – his official portrait.
Stevenson further disclosed that Toner “will be only the second acting spokesperson to have his portrait … to hang in the second floor corridor, because Mark Toner has been at this podium for almost five years.”
Toner Welcomes Incoming Spokesperson
Toner graciously said a few welcoming words for the incoming State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert. “I’m also very, very happy that I can pass the baton, the spokesperson baton … over to such a capable person as , who is getting up to speed on all these issues but will be taking the podium and carrying on the daily press briefings and acting as the department spokesperson going forward.”
The Department of State announced Heather Nauert as the new State Department Spokesperson on Monday (April 24). After John Kirby, the former Spokesperson for the State Department departed as the regime changed from Barack Obama to Donald Trump post-elections, Mark Toner, the Deputy Spokesperson was holding press conferences off and on. There is hope that with the new appointee Nauert joining in, there will be daily press briefings everyday.