State Department official grilled over ‘mandatory’ use of pronouns in emails


An Associated Press reporter and Deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel got into a heated exchange Thursday over the agency’s new policy that reportedly mandates the use of pronouns in emails.

Journalist Matt Lee, who covers the State Department for the outlet, asked Patel during his Thursday press briefing to address a reportedly “mandatory” policy implemented just hours earlier that requires internal email exchanges to include pronouns, Fox News reported.

“Have you gotten any emails from any of your colleagues before you came out here… since about noon or so?” Lee asked Patel.

Patel asked the reporter what his question was and Lee asked him if he had noticed anything different in the “from” line of the emails.

The spokesman appeared to get frustrated and said that he was not aware of any changes.

Deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel
Deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said he was not familiar with the email issue when pressed by AP reporter Matt Lee.

“Within the last hour and a half… the State Department’s internal email system — and I tested this, so I know that it’s true —has added pronouns to people’s … not their signature … but to where it says from,” Lee said. “Why?” 

“This is not something that anybody has a choice about, and so I’m wondering why and who made this decision,” he continued.

Patel, seemingly blindsided by the question, said he had no knowledge of the “phenomenon.”

AP reporter Matt Lee
Matt Lee covers the State Department for the Associated Press.

Lee said that a number of people had even received emails with the wrong pronoun.

“I’d like to know why this would not be an optional thing … the problem is that a lot of them or at least some of them so far, as I’ve been able to tell, are wrong. They’re giving the wrong pronouns,” Lee told Patel.

“So men are being identified as women and women as men … and this has nothing to do with whatever transgender or anything like that … but it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Patel started to say that all individuals have a right to use their own pronouns when Lee interrupted: “I don’t have a problem with doing it and if people want their pronouns attached to it, it’s fine! But it should be a choice. Not something the State Department imposes on people, especially if it’s wrong,” he said.

Patel said he would “look into it” before leaving the briefing room.

When contacted by The Post for comment on the policy, the State Department pointed to a tweet by spokesman Matthew Miller, who blamed the “unintentional change” on Microsoft Outlook.

“The State Department’s Bureau of Information Resource Management (IRM) is aware of the recent issues with user profiles on Microsoft Outlook and working to remedy the situation,” Miller tweeted.

“This change was unintentional and the bureau is working to correct this immediately.”

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