January 17, 2017 1244 GMT
Earnest referred to Ayatollah Rafsanjani as a 'prominent figure' and a 'consequential figure' in Iran's history, said a report by the New York Times.
He said that the White House sent its condolences to the people of Iran.
Ayatollah Rafsanjani died on January 8 (Sunday) at the age of 82 due to a heart attack in a Tehran hospital.
He was a close ally to the Father of the Islamic Revolution the late Imam Khomeini and also the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. Rafsanjani was a veteran cleric, a pillar of the Islamic Revolution and an influential politician, who served in different positions in the post-1979 Islamic Revolution era.
In his message on the demise of the late ayatollah, the Leader described him as 'an old friend, a comrade and companion during the struggles of the Islamic movement, who was also a close colleague in the Islamic Republic of Iran over the last several years.
With the loss of Hashemi, I do not know any other figure with whom I have had so many shared experiences for so long, on the turbulent path of this historic era.'
The late ayatollah's demise turned out to be the top news in the international media and caused reactions of the world leaders who sent messages of condolences to the people and government of Iran.