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State Dept. retracts denial of Kerry yachting during Egypt crisis

US Secretary of State John Kerry.Jacquelyn Martin/AP

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John F. Kerry is in the headlines over the Fourth of July holiday for a decidedly unwelcome reason: questions over whether he went sailing off Nantucket as Egypt descended into chaos.

Turns out he did, at least for a little while -- despite his spokeswoman’s initial insistence to the contrary.

The spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, on Wednesday denied a CBS News report on Twitter that Kerry had been seen boarding his yacht, Isabel, for a sail off Nantucket just hours after Egypt’s first democratically elected leader was overthrown.

“Any report or tweet that he was on a boat is completely inaccurate,” she said, clearly trying to quell any impression that the nation’s top diplomat was not on the job.


But the State Department reversed course Friday when Psaki issued a statement correcting the record on Kerry’s whereabouts off Nantucket.

“While he was briefly on his boat on Wednesday, Secretary Kerry worked around the clock all day including participating in the president’s meeting with his national security council,” she said.

A Kerry aide who was not authorized to speak publicly said the denial on Wednesday was the result of “confusion,” saying Kerry had apparently taken his grandson out for an hour-long sail.

Kerry’s aides bristled at the suggestion that he is simply lounging around, saying he has been working the phones while on vacation with world leaders and participating in White House meetings about the situation in Egypt and a series of other pressing foreign policy challenges.

Still, the State Department’s initial misstatement about the matter was a self-inflicted wound that was picked up by many media outlets and reverberated across the Internet.

In her statement, Psaki on Friday cited phone calls Kerry had conducted from Nantucket with multiple foreign leaders and diplomats in Egypt, Israel, Norway, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.


It was not the first time that Kerry became an easy target for detractors who suggest he is out of touch, including when he was pictured wind surfing during the height of his failed 2004 presidential campaign.

Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeBender