Ben Rhodes, assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, has been described as the most influential voice shaping foreign policy besides President Barack Obama. Rhodes, 38, has been called the architect of the Iran Nuclear deal and helped shape how it’s been presented to the media and rest of the world. His profile in New York Times Magazine earlier this month garnered a lot of attention, so much so that it required a follow up by the article’s author, David Samuel, to better explain himself.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ben Rhodes Started Working with President Obama as his Foreign Speechwriter in 2007
Rhodes began his political career after graduating from Rice University and then New York University with a Masters in creative writing. He initially wanted to be a writer but began working with former Democratic Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton in 2002. He worked five years with Hamilton as a Special Assistant and helped draft the Iraq Study Group Report as well as recommendations to the 9/11 Commission. He’s also the co-author with Hamilton and Tom Kean, chairman of 9/11 Commission, of the book, “Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission.”
He joined the ‘Obama for President’ campaign in 2007. He’s worked for the President in many capacities. Currently, he’s an assistant to President Obama and the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting. Previously, he worked as Deputy Director of White House Speechwriting as well as Senior Speechwriter.
2. Rhodes Says The White House Created an “Echo Chamber” in Getting the Media to Back the Iran Nuclear Deal
Rhodes is quoted in New York Times Magazine as admitting that the White House created an ‘echo chamber’ in trying to sell the Iran Nuclear deal to the media. Rhodes was asked about the onslaught of experts in nuclear weapons appearing on Capitol Hill and online. He admitted the White House put them there. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say,” Rhodes said to the Times, admitting they were essentially cheerleaders of the Iran Nuclear deal. He also added that the average White House reporter is just 27 years old and that their only reporting experience is around political campaigns and that “they literally know nothing.”
Rhodes helped create an entire media campaign to get the public to back the Iran Nuclear deal, even coming up with a Twitter account for it – @TheIranDeal. He says it was to not only get the correct information out about the Deal but also to see what those in the Senate were saying about it in order to counteract it.
3. Rhodes Called to Testify Over the Iran Nuclear Deal due to Allegations the White House Lied About the Timeline/Misleading the Public
Thanks to that NYT Magazine piece, there’s now a lot of questions about when the White House actually started negotiating with Iran.
There are varying reports of when the U.S. began talks with Iran about dismantling their nuclear weapons program in order to lift crippling economic sanctions. Rhodes says it’s public knowledge that the White House began talks with Iran in the summer of 2012, however, Fox News reporter James Rosen says that’s not true. He says he asked the State Department back in February of 2013, about talks between the governments of the U.S. and Iran and was told “no” that is not happening. He also discovered that a question about Iran, he asked during a briefing in December of 2013, was edited and removed. The State Department says it was a glitch in the video.
The head of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz, is now trying to get Rhodes to testify about the Iran Nuclear deal even tweeting at him, asking if he’s “man enough to show.” Rhodes has declined to testify.
4. Rhodes’ Brother is Head of CBS News – The Youngest Network News President in U.S. TV History
Ben Rhodes’ older brother, David, is the current head of CBS News, becoming the youngest network news president in American TV history. He’s been the president since 2011, but took sole leadership in January of 2015. He oversees all CBS News content.
Prior to working at CBS, he worked at Bloomberg, where he was head of all TV programming.
Rhodes began his TV career as a Production Assistant during the launch of Fox News in August of 1996. He eventually became the channel’s Vice President of News.
Rhodes, just like his younger brother Ben, graduated from Rice University, in 1996, and is actually a member of the school’s Board of Trustees.
5. Rhodes is Married to a Fellow Washington Insider and Has a Young Daughter
Ben Rhodes is married to Ann Norris. She works at the State Department as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Legislative Affairs. Before that she was the Senior Advisor for Global Women’s Issues, also at the State Department. Norris previously worked nine years for California Senator Barbara Boxer as her Senior Foreign Policy and Defense Advsior. Norris grew up in California and attended UCLA and the U.S. Naval War College.
The couple has a 1-year-old daughter named Ella. Rhodes has a picture of President Obama holding Ella above his desk at the White House.